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'Traumatizing': Family calls for justice after teen holding toy gun shot by Akron police officer

The police officer was placed on leave amid an investigation.

April 12, 2024, 2:39 PM

The family of a 15-year-old who was shot by an Akron, Ohio, police officer while holding what was determined to be a toy gun is calling for justice and accountability as the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation probes the incident.

The teenager, Tavion Koonce-Williams, who was shot in the wrist on April 1 and treated for his injuries, appeared at a press conference on Friday morning in Akron alongside his family and attorney Imokhai Okolo.

"This experience has been very, very traumatizing for me, my son, my family and also my other children," the teen's mother, Angel Williams, said. "Akron Police Department needs to be held accountable for the excessive force that you use on our Black babies. It is not OK. And we're sick and tired of watching our babies die in the hands of people who swore an oath to protect and serve."

PHOTO: Tavion Koonce-Williams, who was shot by an Akron police officer on April 1, 2024 while holding a gun determined to be a toy, appears alongside his parents Angel Williams and James Koonce at a press conference in Akron, Ohio on April 12, 2024.
Tavion Koonce-Williams, who was shot by an Akron police officer on April 1, 2024 while holding a gun determined to be a toy, appears alongside his parents Angel Williams and James Koonce at a press conference in Akron, Ohio on April 12, 2024.
WEWS

"I am grateful to God that my son is still alive, but I am deeply hurt by the trauma that this has caused that will forever affect his life," his father, James Koonce, said.

Okolo invoked the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer on Nov. 22, 2014, while holding a toy gun.

"It's sad that 10 years after the murder of Tamir Rice, we are still here pleading for the police department to see the humanity in our Black boys," he said.

The press conference comes after the City of Akron released body camera footage of the incident, as well as audio from a 911 caller who reported a Black male pointing a gun, which was later determined to be a toy, at people's homes.

The body camera video shows the officer, who was identified by the city of Akron as Ryan Westlake, arriving on the scene and asking the teen to put his hands behind his back before firing a single shot that appeared to strike the teen's wrist. As the officer approached the teen, Koonce-Williams repeatedly screams, "it's fake, it's fake, it's fake," with his hands up in the air.

"Shots fired, drop to the ground!" the officer said as Koonce-Williams dropped to the ground where he was handcuffed. Shortly after Koonce-Williams was handcuffed, an officer took off the cuffs and applied a tourniquet.

PHOTO: Body camera footage released by the city of Akron shows the April 1, 2024 shooting of a teen determined to be holding a fake gun by an Akron police officer.
Body camera footage released by the city of Akron shows the April 1, 2024 shooting of a teen determined to be holding a fake gun by an Akron police officer.
Akron Police Department/City of Akron

Video shows the teen crying throughout the incident and telling officers, "I'm a good kid, I get A's in school, I play football," as they render first aid.

"[He] is now grappling with the trauma of being profiled and having his life flash before his eyes after being shot," Okolo said. "Tavion was shot on the inside of his wrist, which clearly indicates his hands were up when he was shot."

According to the city of Akron, Westlake is a nine-year veteran of the department and has been placed on paid administrative leave amid the investigation.

The city also released Westlake's personnel file, showing that he was initially fired from APD in July 2021 due to various policy violations, but was then rehired following an agreement with the police union.

"The officer's file includes a number of disciplinary actions and use of force incidents, one of which has been deemed unreasonable. Additionally, the city anticipates having further information to release in the coming weeks," according to the statement released by the city on Monday.

PHOTO: This image shared by the city of Akron shows a fake gun that was held by a teen who was shot by an Akron police officer on April 1, 2024.
This image shared by the city of Akron shows a fake gun that was held by a teen who was shot by an Akron police officer on April 1, 2024.
Akron Police Department/City of Akron

Okolo demanded on Friday that the Akron Police Department terminate Westlake, release his complete personnel file and hold the police union accountable.

The Akron Fraternal Order of Police (AFOP), the union representing Westlake, said in a statement on Monday that this "is an extremely difficult situation for everyone involved. There is always a concern each time an officer is faced with the incredibly challenging, split-second decision to defend himself and others against an armed suspect."

"We are confident when all the facts are released, our officer's actions will be deemed justified," the statement added.

The union released an additional statement on Friday, standing by Westlake, saying that the officer was "forced to make a split second decision." The union further claimed that the officer saw the teen pulling a gun out of his waistband. This is not clear in the video released by police because the teen is out of view for a few seconds as the shot is fired.

"The incident remains under investigation (BCI), and due to the independent investigation, we won't be commenting further," a spokesman for the Akron Police Department told ABC News on Tuesday.

PHOTO: Body camera footage released by the city of Akron shows the April 1, 2024 shooting of a teen determined to be holding a fake gun by an Akron police officer.
Body camera footage released by the city of Akron shows the April 1, 2024 shooting of a teen determined to be holding a fake gun by an Akron police officer.
Akron Police Department/City of Akron

According to APD, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) will investigate this case and, once it's complete, the findings will be turned over to the Ohio Attorney General's Office for review.

A BCI spokesperson confirmed to ABC News on Monday that their "investigation is active and ongoing" and added that the "AG's Special Prosecution section will review the case and present it to a grand jury."