It’s been all but a tradition for white cops to brandish their guns — and use them — when Black “suspects” are in the equation. But that troubling apparent rite of law enforcement passage has been extended to Black children lately and now one family is demanding answers after an officer was allowed to keep his job following an episode where he pulled his gun on a developmentally disabled and visually impaired 10-year-old in Utah.
DJ Hrubes was playing in his grandmother’s yard in the town of Woods Cross on June 6 when a white police officer suddenly pulled up, pointed his weapon at the child and ordered him to get on the ground. Hrubes immediately complied. The officer then left as suddenly as he had arrived. Authorities would later reveal that they were looking for armed robbery suspects, who were described as Black. Hrubes’ mother, Jerri, who is white, claimed her son did not have any objects in his hands at the time the officer pulled up and said there was “clear prejudice.”
Jerri said she called the Woods Cross Police Department afterward to file a formal complaint against the officer. After making the call, the officer came by their home to apologize for pulling a gun on the child.
Woods Cross Police Chief Chad Soffe defended the unidentified officer’s actions during a press conference on Monday following the backlash. That was in spite of the fact that the officer reportedly ignored departmental policy and failed to turn on his body camera when he confronted Hrubes. According to the Huffington Post, it is department policy for officers to turn on their body cameras when they get out of their vehicles to confront a suspect.
“In this case, it happened so quickly,” Soffe said. “I do not blame him one bit for not thinking about, ‘I gotta have my camera before I get out and, you know, confront this suspect who may have a gun.’”
Hrubes’ family attorney strongly disagreed.
“Suppose they had said the shooter was white,” Karra Porter said. “Do you think they would have pulled a gun on every white person they saw?”
Local activists have also noted that the police changed its account of what happened multiple times. According to Deseret News, in initial statements, police did not say any of the suspects were Black. Police initially said one suspect was described as Hispanic but the race of the second suspect was unknown by officers. But during the Monday press conference, Soffe claimed the officer pointed his gun at Hrubes because he matched the description.
“They have yet to tell the same story twice,” Black Lives Matter organizer Josianne Petit said of Woods Cross police version of events.
An independent investigation of the incident is underway, but the officer in question has not been placed on administrative leave. Local activists believe the fact that the officer was able to go back to work sends a strong message about how they feel about Black lives.
“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,” said Lex Scott, founder of a Utah Black Lives Matter Chapter. “And that’s not OK to do.”