BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WOIO) - Imagine knowing you may be in trouble at work, but having to wait more than a year to find out for sure.
A Beachwood police officer remains in that situation right now. Officer Blake Rogers shot a shoplifting suspect last summer.
We’ve now obtained records that show a special prosecutor with the state is investigating the officer on possible charges of “unlawful use of force.”
Rogers’ attorney, Kimbery Kendall Corral, says Rogers would rather be back to work, yet he remains on paid administrative leave nearly 14 months later.
“His career has been put on hold,” she said. ”I don’t know what else he could do.”
19 Investigates was first to obtain exclusive video showing the shooting on dash camera, and in the weeks since we aired it, we’ve been piecing together a timeline of what happened, trying to figure out where this case stalled.
Councilman Mike Burkons spoke out when he found out about the officer making around $100,000 a year to be on leave.
“It’s a significant amount of money, but it’s more about us showing we take this seriously,” he said. “Everybody should question why it’s been a year on fully paid administrative leave.”
19 Investigators asked the city of Beachwood why a decision has yet to be made on his employment status.
In a statement, Mayor Martin Horwitz said the city is waiting for a criminal review to be completed before taking further action.
So, if the review is what they need to move forward, why hasn’t it been completed yet?
“That’s not the result of Blake Rogers’ lack of transparency,” Corral said.
Records show the city asked Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal investigation to begin investigating the incident the day it happened on June 27, 2019. We know that investigation is complete, but the findings have not been made public yet.
In November of last year, Beachwood asked the state Attorney General’s office to review the case only for potential misdemeanor charges against Officer Rogers. In March, the state said it would not recommend any.
According to the Attorney General’s office, “A municipality could request the Special Prosecutions section to review a case for felonies, but the county prosecutor’s office would have the final say. In a felony case, the county prosecutor must request that the Special Prosecution section review or handle a case.”
So, in April, Beachwood says it sent the case to Cuyahoga County prosecutors to review for any potential felony charges.
The prosecutors office says it handed the case right back, telling Beachwood exactly what the city’s law department needed to do before prosecutors could take the case to a grand jury.
All the while, Corral says Rogers was continually calling her.
“I’m like, ’I don’t know what to tell you. Here’s what we’re waiting on.‘ Then I call BCI, and he’s like ‘Wait wait wait, I thought the prosecutors were doing it? Now they’re saying they’re not doing it?’ It’s gone back and forth like this for months and months, like this,” Corral said.
The rest of April, May and June went by, then in mid July, the Cuyahoga County prosecutors say Beachwood responded, asking the case to be sent back to the state for the felony review, instead.
In late July, county prosecutors requested a state prosecutor review for a potential felony charge of unlawful use of force.
New documents we obtained show that she sent the request on the same day the dash camera footage was released to 19 News.
The felony investigation is still in the works now, but it brings us back to this: Does Beachwood really need a decision on felony charges before deciding whether to continue paying Officer Rogers?
Marcus Sidoti represents the 19-year-old shoplifting suspect who was injured in the shooting.
“This just kind of goes to show you the systemic issues that happen with these police-involved shootings,” he said.
While Sidoti and and Corral do not agree on whether the shooting itself was justified, both believe an employment decision could be made by the city for the sake of Officer Rogers and Beachwood taxpayers.
“We’re talking about 14 months right, of something that was captured on video,” Sidoti said.
“The fact that it’s taken a year, I think is egregious,” Corral said. “But, we have to look where that responsibility falls and its not on Blake Rogers shoulders.”
All use of force cases referred to the special prosecutor go to a grand jury. We expect that to happen “soon” in officer roger’s case, but no one has been able to tell us how soon.