WOODS CROSS, Utah >> A Utah police chief defended an officer who pulled his gun on a 10-year-old black boy, saying the officer believed the child might be an armed suspect and will keep working during an independent review, police said today.
The officer’s actions drew criticism after Jerri Hrubes said the white police officer pulled his gun on her son, DJ, who is black, while he was playing on his grandmother’s front lawn Thursday in a state where African Americans make up just 1.4% of the population, according to U.S. Census figures.
Police in the small town of Woods Cross north of Salt Lake City have asked the Davis County Attorney’s office to review the officer’s actions and how the agency responded, Chief Chad Soffe said. The unidentified officer mistook the boy for a potential suspect, but used good judgment overall, he said.
“We want to learn from this, we don’t want people to be traumatized by our efforts to protect the community,” he said.
Hrubes has said her son didn’t have any toys or objects in his hands. The officer told DJ to put his hands in the air and get on the ground and told him not to ask questions. After Jerri Hrubes confronted the officer, he got in his car in left, she said.
Soffe said the officer was part of a group chasing suspects after authorities received reports of a shooting and were told the suspects were black, Hispanic or Polynesian, he said.
An attorney working with the Hrubes family said the mother was upset and still had unanswered questions. Jerri Hrubes has said the officer returned and apologized later that day, but the confrontation left her feeling unsafe in the West Bountiful home.
“If it’s true that the justification to point a gun at this child is because they were told the suspects might be black, Hispanic or Polynesian, are they saying this officer was entitled to stop and point his gun at every male fitting that description?” said Kara Porter.
Hrubes doesn’t necessarily want the officer fired, but would be satisfied with an outside review, Porter said.
Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter in Utah, said her organization is demanding that the officer be fired and that they plan to protest outside the police agency’s offices. She said the group is in the process of filing a complaint with the FBI’s civil rights division.
“The fact that this police officer still has a job, and they’ve defended his actions, sends a message that any officer can go out, aim a gun at a 10-year-old kid, and that’s OK,” Scott said. “And that’s not OK to do.”
Centerville Police Chief Paul Child, whose agency was also part of the chase, said authorities care very much about the community’s minority population and acknowledge the area is predominantly white.
“We want them to feel safe and know that we value them in our community,” Child said.