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Here’s one of the main reasons Black people’s tumultuous relationship with police officers is all but assured to continue: Cops don’t seem to learn from previous high-profile incidents.

Nearly a decade after the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, an officer in Akron, Ohio,—the same city where officers of the same police department shot and killed Jayland Walker—shot a 15-year-old Black child who was holding a fake gun, and police bodycam footage shows that the officer fired a shot within a split second of questioning the teen and exiting his vehicle. 

According to WKYC, the incident took place on April 1, after a woman in the Goodyear Heights neighborhood called 911 to report a teen, identified as Tavion Koonce-Williams, pointing a gun at homes near the intersection of Tonawanda Avenue and Newton Street. Note that 911 dispatch was not told any shots were fired or that the gun was being pointed at people. Regardless, the officer in question almost appeared to have arrived at the scene with the intent to shoot first and ask questions maybe never.

Well, he did ask one question. From WKYC:

Police say the first call about the teen suspect came in at 7:04 p.m. “He pulled it (the gun) out and acted like he was going to shoot their houses,” a woman told a 911 dispatcher.

The officer spotted the person matching the caller’s description walking on Brittain Road near the corner of Ottawa Avenue. The officer can be heard asking the teen where he was coming from and ordering him to show his hands.

As he was set to exit his car, the officer fired one shot at the teen, striking him in the hand.

“Shots fired, shots fired,” the officer can be heard saying. “It’s fake. It’s fake, it’s fake,” the suspect screams several times in response. The officer orders the teen to get on the ground.

The officer handcuffed Tavion, but then removed the cuffs after noticing the blood leaking from his gunshot wound.

“It’s a fake gun, I promise,” Tavion can be heard reiterating. “I came from my cousin’s funeral.”

Much like the Tamir killing, video footage shows that the officer hadn’t even gotten all the way out of the car before firing a shot, which happened only a split-second after he began to question the teen, who, fortunately, survived the encounter. Also, much like the Tamir shooting, it’s worth pointing out that the only person to actually fire any shots was the officer, which is obviously provable through the fact that he was the only one holding a gun capable of firing bullets. We keep hearing about how brave police officers are and how they put their lives on the line to protect the public, but in cases like these, where no one is physically injured until the police show up, it only appears that cops will shoot before taking even minimal risk that they might be in harm’s way.

The investigation into the shooting is being handled by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Meanwhile, Akron Mayor Shammas Malik announced the release of both the bodycam footage and the personnel file of the officer who shot the teen “in an effort to be as transparent as possible.”

More from WKYC:

The city of Akron provided several documents about the officer who shot the teen suspect. He has been identified as Ryan Westlake. Officer Westlake is 33-years-old and went to the Kent State University Police Academy.

“The officer’s file includes a number of disciplinary actions and use of force incidents, one of which has been deemed unreasonable,” Malik’s office stated in its release.

In May 2021, Westlake was suspended for 71 days total for multiple incidents that occurred that year, including use of profanity and an anti-gay slur, brandishing his firearm towards his girlfriend while intoxicated, plus involvement in off-duty incidents in Ohio and Florida while being “extremely intoxicated” with “behaviors and actions that discredited the police department.”

Westlake appealed the suspension, but was fired by then-Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan in July 2021. He was reinstated the day after being fired after agreeing to serve the suspension.

So, basically, what we’re seeing is exactly what happens when cops who have already revealed who they are being put back on the streets only to repeat that same type of behavior.

Attorney Imokhai Okolo, who is representing the teen’s family, issued the following statement:

“The Koonce and Williams family are heartbroken and seek justice and accountability for lack of humanity that was shown to Tavion on April 1, 2024. How is it that a 15-year-old child could be gunned down just a block from his grandmother’s home while his hands were up doing exactly what the police officer asked him to do? What could possibly justify the inhumane treatment of a child? Black boys deserve to grow up and live without the threat of walking home and being shot by the police. Black boys deserve to be treated with dignity and humanity. Tavion deserved better—the community deserves better.”



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