A white mother of a black 10-year-old boy wants an independent investigation after she claims a Utah police officer pointed a gun at her son’s head in what she calls a racially motivated incident – but police say it was a case of misidentification while pursuing armed suspects.
Jerri Hrubes said at a news conference Friday that she saw a white Woods Cross police officer pull his gun on her son, DJ Hrubes, who is black, while he was playing on his grandmother’s front lawn Thursday north of Salt Lake City.
She said her son didn’t have any toys or objects in his hands.
The officer told DJ to put his hands in the air and get on the ground, she said. When DJ asked the officer if he did something wrong, the officer told DJ not to ask questions.
The boy’s mother said she raced outside of the house and screamed at the officer, ‘What are you doing? This is a 10-year-old child.’
She says the officer didn’t respond and got in his car and left.
Woods Cross police didn’t immediately return messages Friday about the events.
Police Lt. Adam Osoro told the Salt Lake Tribune Thursday that the officer mistook the boy for a potential suspect during a pursuit of two armed suspects.
Osoro said the officer pulled out his gun after the child ran to the side of the house. After getting closer, the officer realized Hrubes was not involved in the incident and left, Osoro said.
Osoro said the officer acted appropriately under the circumstances.
The chase began around 12.30pm, after police received a call about a reckless driver who was possibly shooting a gun at other cars. Officers located the vehicle and initiated a high speed pursuit, ending in two suspects fleeing on foot.
One suspect was located and arrested and the other is still at large, cops say.
Hrubes said she called dispatch right away to complain about the officer’s actions, and the officer returned to the house later in the day.
She said he apologized and DJ hugged him and said it was OK. She said her son doesn’t ‘have a mean bone in his body’ and is mentally delayed and has issues with his sight.
She teared up recounting the encounter and said she’s thankful she taught DJ growing up to heed the commands of officers.
‘I support all police officers. I see good in them,’ Hrubes said. ‘But, I do not support putting a child of 10-years-old at gunpoint with no explanation… Does he look like he’s 30? Does he look like he’s 18? No.’
She said she doesn’t necessarily want the officer fired, but wants an outside review. She appeared alongside attorney Karra Porter at the news conference, but said she’s not considering any legal action at this time.
Hrubes, who is from Montana, said she was visiting her mother in the town where she grew up: West Bountiful, a suburb of Salt Lake City.
She said the incident changes how she feels in Utah, a state where African Americans account for just 1.4% of the state’s population, according to U.S. Census figures.
‘As a white mother to a black son, I don’t feel safe in West Bountiful anymore,’ Hrubes said. ‘That changed after yesterday. I do not feel that he is safe. He has not left my sight. It just doesn’t feel like it used to.’
Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter in Utah, said her organization is demanding that the officer be fired or they will protest outside the police agency’s offices.
She said the group also plans to file a complaint with the FBI’s civil rights division.
‘Holding a gun to the head of a 10-year-old will traumatize that kid for life,’ Scott said. ‘The only apology we will accept is if this officer is terminated.’