Family of Man Killed by Officer: He Wasn’t Into Guns

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CLEVELAND —  The shooting of a Euclid man by an off-duty police officer in downtown Cleveland early Saturday morning is now the focus of an investigation by Cleveland Police and the city prosecutor’s office.

The mother of Kenneth Smith said she was stunned when she was notified that her son had been shot and killed by the officer, as he sat in a car that had been stopped by police, after a shootout between two groups of people in the parking lot of Wilbert’s Bar.

The coroner ruled that Kenneth Smith, 20, an aspiring rap artist, died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Shauna Smith told Fox 8, “I just want to know why somebody would, what type of protocol is that, to just shoot someone, a deadly shot.”

Investigators said the incident began when off-duty Cleveland Police Officer Roger Jones saw a suspect firing a weapon from a car outside the bar, and decided to follow the car on foot onto East 9th Street.

That’s where he used his cell phone to notify on-duty officers.

After the car was boxed in, police said the driver of the vehicle and the rear seat passenger complied with their commands and were detained, but the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association maintains Kenneth Smith, sitting in the front passenger seat, did not, and that’s when off-duty officer Jones decided to bust out the car window.

Union President Jeff Follmer told Fox 8, “He was given several orders to get out of the car, which he refused. They couldn’t see his hands, at which point a gun was seen, and that’s when the officer fired, because he was in fear for his life.”

But Kenneth Smith’s mother maintains the gun police said was in the car did not belong to her son, and he had recently turned down her offer to help him get a license to carry a gun.

Shauna Smith told Fox 8, “And he said ‘no’ because he wasn’t into guns. So I said, ‘these days, as crazy as people are, sometimes you need something to protect yourself.’  And he said, ‘well, it’s not going to be a gun.’ So my son wasn’t into guns, never had a gun, none of that.”

But the police union said Officer Jones was doing his job.

“The officer was in fear of his life.  There were no ifs, ands or buts, he was in fear for his life, he acted as a hero,” said Follmer. “And he did it off-duty, while on his own time.”

Late Monday, police announced the shooting was being reviewed by the prosecutor’s office, and that the other two people in the car had been released, pending further investigation.

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