I-Team: Officer says man spit at him, punched him before fatal shooting

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CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I-Team has now obtained recordings of a Cleveland police officer explaining to Cuyahoga County sheriff deputies why he fired his gun at a 21-year-old, who had repeatedly punched him.

“First time he spit at me, he verbalized I would have to kill him,” Cleveland Sgt. Dean Graziolli told investigators earlier this year.

Graziolli gave a statement to detectives who were investigating the January 2018 police-involved shooting that left 21-year-old Thomas Yatsko dead.

The shooting happened outside the Corner Alley on the city's east side.

“I had my weapon out and he hit me a couple more times," Graziolli said.

The I-Team obtained security video, police body camera video and witness statements through a public records request filed with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Pffice.

Prosecutors in Franklin County served as special prosecutors on the case. The case was presented to a Cuyahoga County grand jury in June. That grand jury chose not to indict the officer.

Graziolli explained to detectives that Yatsko had been thrown out of the bar for fighting.

The officer said Yatsko turned aggressive, pushing and punching him and leaving his face bruised and bloodied. The video shows a little of the confrontation and you can see Graziolli pulled his gun. Then Yatsko appeared to take another step toward the officer throwing another punch. Graziolli then fired two shots.

Graziolli, who was working off-duty, said as soon as the shots were fired he shouted for someone to call 911.

Graziolli remains on restricted duty. The family of Thomas Yatsko filed a federal lawsuit. That lawsuit is still pending.

Read more, here.

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