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Bodycam footage shows Akron police shooting of teen determined to be holding a fake gun

todayApril 9, 2024


Akron Police Department/City of Akron

(AKRON, Ohio) — Body camera footage released by the City of Akron on Monday shows the April 1 shooting of teenager Tavion Koonce-Williams, who was shot in the hand after a 911 caller reported him to police for holding what was later determined to be a toy gun.

Video shows that the teen, who was not named by police but was later identified by the family attorney, 15-year-old Koonce-Williams, was shot in the hand by an Akron Police Department (APD) officer after a 911 caller, who was walking her dog in the area, reported to police that Koonce-Williams was pointing a gun at people’s homes.

Video shows the officer arriving on the scene and asking the teen to put his hands behind his back before firing a single shot that injured the teen’s hand as he exited his vehicle. The teen can be seen with his hands up in the air amid the shooting, repeatedly screaming, “it’s fake, it’s fake, it’s fake,” regarding the gun, as the officer exits his vehicle.

Attorney Imokhai Okolo, who represents the teen and his family, released a statement on Monday, saying that the family of the East High School student is “heartbroken” and is seeking justice.

“[He] is now grappling with the trauma of being profiled and having his life flash before his eyes after being shot,” Okolo said. “Tavion was shot on the inside of his wrist which clearly indicates his hands were up when he was shot.”

The officer was identified by the city of Akron on Monday as Ryan Westlake, a nine-year veteran of the department and who has been placed on paid administrative leave amid the investigation.

The city also released Westlake’s personnel file, showing that he was initially fired from APD in July 2021 due to various policy violations, but was then rehired following an agreement with the police union.

“The officer’s file includes a number of disciplinary actions and use of force incidents, one of which has been deemed unreasonable. Additionally, the city anticipates having further information to release in the coming weeks,” according to the statement released by the city on Monday.

The Akron Fraternal Order of Police (AFOP), the union representing Westlake, told Akron, Ohio ABC affiliate WEWS-TV that this “is an extremely difficult situation for everyone involved. There is always a concern each time an officer is faced with the incredibly challenging, split-second decision to defend himself and others against an armed suspect.”

“We are confident when all the facts are released, our officer’s actions will be deemed justified,” the statement added.

ABC News reached out to the AFOP for further comment.

“The incident remains under investigation (BCI), and due to the independent investigation, we won’t be committing further,” a spokesman for the Akron Police Department told ABC News on Tuesday.

Akron Mayor Shammas Malik said in a statement on Monday that the city released the body camera footage and the officer’s personnel file in an “effort to be as transparent as possible.”

“We will continue to be transparent and communicative as the process unfolds,” he added.

What the video shows

The shooting took place at around 7:04 p.m. on April 1 after a 911 call, which was also released by police on Monday, reporting a male in the area of Newton Street and Tonawanda Avenue allegedly pointing a gun at surrounding houses, according to police.

“I was calling because I’m walking my dog and there is a guy walking down the street and he was aiming a gun at people’s houses. He pulled it out and was acting like he was going to shoot their houses,” the caller said in the audio of the 911 call.

Asked if the male was “white or Black,” the caller said, “Black male, shorter dreads, he has a black hoodie on and it has like Adidas or something written on the back and the gun was like a little bit bigger than a pistol.”

A responding officer approached “the subject matching the colors description” at approximately 7:11 p.m. local time while he was walking on Britton Road, near the corner of Ottawa Avenue, according to police.

“The officer stopped his marked police car to investigate. As the officer began to exit his patrol car. He quickly issued a verbal command for the male to show his hands,” police said in a statement, accompanying the release of the body camera footage. “Seconds later, the officer discharged his firearm one time striking the male in the hand after observing the subject with what appeared to be a gun in his hand.”

“Shots fired, drop to the ground!” the officer said. Repeatedly screaming to the officer that the gun is “fake,” Koonce-Williams dropped to the ground, footage shows.

Video shows the teen crying in pain throughout the incident as officers place him in handcuffs while he is on the ground. He tells police that he was on his way home from his cousin’s funeral and says that his grandmother lives down the street.

“I can’t feel my hand,” he cries.

“I’m a good kid, I get A’s in school, I play football,” he tells officers as they render first aid.

Koonce-Williams was transported to an area hospital where he “underwent treatment for a non life threatening injury,” police said.

“Tavion now finds himself in the lineage of Black youth being profiled and shot by the Akron Police Department with absolutely no justification or regard for human life,” Okolo said.

Okolo claimed that the city is considering charges against the teen following the incident. Asked if charges could be filed against the teen, a spokesperson for the city of Akron did not immediately respond to ABC News’ inquiry.

According to APD, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) will investigate this case and once it’s complete, the findings will be turned over to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for review.

A BCI spokesperson confirmed to ABC News on Monday that their “investigation is active and ongoing.”

The spokesperson added that “findings will be referred to the county prosecutor for their review” and said the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office requested that case also be presented to a grand jury for evaluation.

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