The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office has completed its review and concluded that two Westlake Police Officers were legally justified in their use of deadly force when they shot and killed 26-year-old Devan Desnoyers on October 10, 2016. The report was released Dec. 22.
All the evidence in the case has been presented to the Grand Jury, and its members agreed that the actions of the officers were objectively reasonable and justified in light of the events of that morning.
“The officers encountered someone who apparently had just committed an armed robbery, had fled the crime scene and recklessly put others in danger. When the police were finally able to stop his car, he refused to follow their commands and instead pulled what looked to be a real gun,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. “Faced with what appeared to be a life threatening situation, they reacted appropriately and as they had been trained. Only later did they learn that Mr. Desnoyers was carrying a replica firearm.”
The two officers, as well as other Westlake Police Officers, had responded to a 911 report of an armed robbery at the CVS Pharmacy on Detroit Road shortly after 9:30 a.m. All of the officers were aware that three other CVS stores in the area had recently been robbed in a similar manner by a suspect who demanded prescription painkillers from pharmacists, indicated that he had a gun and threatened to shoot if they did not comply.
Witnesses saw Mr. Desnoyers flee from the CVS and head east on Detroit Road in his white Mazda 3 hatchback, and this information was also reported to police. Multiple police cars and Mr. Desnoyers converged on the intersection of Detroit and Crocker Road from different directions.
When Mr. Desnoyers drove over the center line and pulled into the intersection to get away from the police, his Mazda was struck by the zone car that a Westlake Police Officer was driving. Mr. Desnoyers’ vehicle came to a halt after striking a utility pole on the north side of Detroit and was quickly surrounded by police cars. Officers then got out of their cars and approached the Mazda.
All witnesses, including civilians, agreed that the police repeatedly ordered Mr. Desnoyers to show his hands. The officers who were alongside the car said he instead first reached for a bottle of oxycodone and then pulled a replica firearm from his waistband.
When he did that, two Westlake police officers fired a total of seven shots in 1.1 seconds, fatally wounding the suspect. Not until they pulled Mr. Desnoyers from his car and began first aid, did the police realize that the gun was a replica.
From the time Mr. Desnoyers walked into CVS until the shots were fired, barely four minutes had elapsed.
The fatal shooting was investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation with assistance from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office and the FBI.
Much valuable information was captured by dash cameras on the Westlake Police cars, again underscoring video’s importance as an investigative tool.
Evidence was turned over to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office for review. In keeping with the Office’s policy on police use of deadly force cases where civilians are killed, all the evidence was also presented to the Grand Jury for a final determination on whether criminal charges were warranted.
Both the Prosecutor’s Office and the Grand Jury concluded that under the circumstances, the officers were justified in using deadly force.
“Given the hold-up that had just happened that morning and the actions of Mr. Desnoyers in the seconds before the shooting when he refused to obey their commands and instead drew a gun, the Officers made reasonable decision to fire their weapons and stop a potential threat to themselves and their fellow Officers,” said Prosecutor McGinty. “The police did their duty. Police are trained and expected to shoot in such a situation. There is no other reasonable course of conduct available that would not endanger officers and the public.
“At the same time, our sympathies go out to the family of Mr. Desnoyers. The evidence shows that before a series of crimes in the last year of his life, he had no significant record. He became addicted to painkillers after an injury, and that addiction rapidly took over his life. He, too, is another victim of the opioid epidemic that has so devastated our community.”