WOODS CROSS, Utah (AP) — About 100 protesters gathered outside a police agency in northern Utah to demand an officer who pulled his gun on a 10-year-old child last week be fired.
The crowd carried Black Lives Matter signs Friday evening and others protesting the incident, including one that said “Hey Cops! Don’t pull guns at our kids.”
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 June 6 in a state where African Americans make up just 1.4% of the population, according to U.S. Census figures.
Black Lives Matter in Utah founder Lex Scott said her group was inspired to organize the protest after learning the officer would stay on the job.
“I do believe it was a hate crime,” Scott said. “That child was targeted because of his skin color.”
Woods Cross Police Chief Chad Soffe said last Monday that officials don’t intend to fire the unidentified officer. He said the officer used good judgment and mistook the boy for a potential suspect during a pursuit of armed suspects.
“We want to learn from this, we don’t want people to be traumatized by our efforts to protect the community,” Soffe said.
Hrubes has said her son had no 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 and 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.
Scott’s group was joined Friday evening by members of other civil rights advocacy groups, including, Utahns Against Police Brutality and Mormon Women for Ethical Government, though the latter group has not demanded that the officer be fired.
Heather White, an attorney working with the police department, said Friday that the Utah Department of Public Safety will investigate the Woods Cross police officer and evaluate whether he acted with racial bias or unnecessary force and whether any crimes were committed.
Protesters called for more police officer accountability and better training for how to deescalate situations and identify bias.
A lawyer working with Hrubes said the mother is pleased that the state will investigate. But Scott and another protester said they are concerned the investigation won’t be fair.
“I’ve seen hundreds of investigations, and guess who’s never found guilty? The police,” Jacob Jensen of Utahns Against Police Brutality told the crowd.
Scott said “police tend to investigate themselves and find themselves innocent. It’s a conflict of interest. It’s not OK.”