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Davis County attorney seeks more info on officer who drew gun on black child

DJ Hrubes and his mother, Jerri, speaks to the members of the media during a press conference at the law office of Christensen & Jensen in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 7, 2019, regarding an incident that occurred between an armed Wood Cross police o
DJ Hrubes and his mother, Jerri, speaks to the members of the media during a press conference at the law office of Christensen & Jensen in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 7, 2019, regarding an incident that occurred between an armed Wood Cross police o
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

WOODS CROSS — It’s been three months since a Woods Cross police officer drew his gun on an unsuspecting 10-year-old black child in West Bountiful while looking for potentially armed suspects.

Controversy erupted in the days following the incident not only because of the officer’s alleged actions, but because of statements by the Woods Cross Police Department that contradicted eyewitness accounts. Furthermore, the department seemed to change its own account of the incident.

Woods Cross Police Chief Chad Soffe had originally asked the Davis County Attorney’s Office to “review” but not investigate the incident. But Troy Rawlings, the county attorney, told the chief he doesn’t do “reviews,” only criminal investigations.

Woods Cross then asked the Utah Department of Public Safety to look at the incident.

A spokesman with the Department of Public Safety told the Deseret News this week that a case had been submitted to Rawlings’ office for screening.

Rawlings confirmed that his office had received a report, but he then sent it back to the state investigators, requesting “significant additional items of evidence.” Rawlings would not go into detail about what kind of additional information he is seeking. But he noted it is not unusual for his office to request additional information be gathered from an investigating agency before his office decides whether criminal charges are warranted in a case.

Attorney Heather White, who is representing Woods Cross, said the city is not concerned that the investigation has taken three months.

“It’s not unusual for the county attorney to ask for more information,” she said. “We’d rather have them take the time they need and get it right.”

White also did not know what types of additional information the county attorney needed, but said whether it is documents or interviews, the police department will cooperate.

Meanwhile, attorney Karra Porter, who is representing the family of 10-year-old DJ Hrubes, said they would just like to see changes within the Woods Cross Police Department.

“I never quite understood why there was a criminal investigation, since the Hrubes family did not request one. If there is going to be a criminal review, I hope it will include whether the officer made a false statement when he submitted his report, which is an important issue,” Porter said.

At the time of the incident, the family called for an independent review of the department’s actions, but did not call for the officer to be fired. Jerri Hrubes said she viewed the incident as a case of “clear prejudice” against her son.

Jeanetta Williams, president of NAACP Tri-State Conference for Idaho, Nevada and Utah, called for an independent investigation of the incident.

On June 6. Centerville police responded to a report of a shooting. After a chase through Centerville and Farmington, the suspects got out of their car in West Bountiful and ran.

Woods Cross Police Chief Chad Soffe addresses the members of the media during a press conference at the Woods Cross Police Department on Monday, June 10, 2019, where he apologized for an officer who pointed a gun at 10-year-old boy playing in his yard dur
Woods Cross Police Chief Chad Soffe addresses members of the media at the Woods Cross Police Department on Monday, June 10, 2019, where he discussed an officer who drew a gun at a child during a search for two suspects in a shooting on June 6, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

A lieutenant on the day of the incident said officers were searching for two people: one was described as Hispanic and the race of the other suspect was unknown. Days later, the chief said police had been looking for two black people. Two days after that, White said police were told that one of the suspects was Hispanic and the other was black.

A Woods Cross officer driving with his lights and siren on saw a black male running in the area where the suspects were last seen, Soffe said. The officer pulled over to talk to him, but the young man looked at the officer and started running across the front lawn of the yard, he said.

“Our officer draws his gun and gives commands for the young man to get on the ground, thinking this is one of suspects we are looking for,” the chief said in June.

”Once the suspect is face down on the ground, my officer approaches him from in front of his car to the sidewalk; as he get closer he realizes this is not the suspect. He immediately holsters his weapon at the same time that this young man’s mother comes out and is yelling, ‘This is my 10-year-old son.’”

But eyewitnesses said the boy never ran.

Members of the Hrubes family and two passers-by who saw the encounter have said the officer pulled up in front of the house, got out of his car, pointed a gun at DJ’s head and told him to get on the ground — an order they say the boy complied with immediately.

The officer then drove off without explaining his actions to her or her son, Hrubes said. She said the officer returned later in the day to apologize to DJ, telling the boy, “I am so sorry I pointed my gun at you.”

Following that press conference in June, Porter said said she had now heard four different versions of the story from Woods Cross police.

It is not known when the state will complete its investigation into the incident and resubmit its report to the Davis County attorney.