After a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury determined there will be no felony charges for a Beachwood police officer who was involved in a shooting at Beachwood Place last year, the city of Beachwood will conduct an internal investigation and the officer has filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants and the city.
Blake Rogers has been on paid administrative leave since June 27, 2019, the day of the incident, at an annual salary of $92,206.40, plus benefits, which he has been receiving while on leave, pending the internal investigation.
Rogers and his wife, Jacalyn Rogers, retained Kevin M. Gross of Zipkin Whiting Co. LPA of Beachwood to file a 41-page lawsuit that demands reinstatement, promotion to sergeant, trial jury, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs and “other and further relief.”
Defendants are Beachwood Mayor Martin S. Horwitz, former Beachwood Police Chief Gary Haba, Beachwood Law Director Diane Calta, Beachwood Assistant Law Director Nathalie Supler, Beachwood City Council president James Pasch and the city of Beachwood. The individuals are being sued in their official and individual capacities.
During the incident in question, Rogers responded to a report of a theft of a $59 baseball hat from Dillard’s at Beachwood Place. He shot at the shoplifting suspect, Jaquan Jones, 20, of Cleveland in the parking lot as Jones attempted to flee in a stolen car. During the incident, Jones ran over Rogers’ foot.
Jones pleaded guilty Sept. 23 to attempted felonious assault and other charges in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and will be sentenced Oct. 26.
An internal investigation
Horwitz wrote in an Oct. 9 statement Rogers will remain on paid administrative leave pending the internal investigation based on Beachwood’s police procedure manual, “something we were not permitted to do until BCI and the Ohio Attorney General’s office finished their work.”
Because of conflicts of interest within Beachwood’s law department, the city requested the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations and the Attorney General’s office special prosecutions section handle the investigation into the officer-involved shooting and bring the case to the grand jury for determination of felony charges.
“I have instructed Chief Stillman to make this a top priority and I am hopeful we will have his department’s report within the next 14 days,” Horwitz stated.
Stillman said the investigation will determine whether Rogers violated any internal policies during the officer-involved shooting.
Marcus Sidoti, a partner at Friedman & Gilbert of Cleveland and Jones’ lawyer, on Oct. 13 said he has not yet determined whether his client will file his own lawsuit regarding Rogers’ actions.
The statement of facts in Rogers’ complaint includes Rogers allegedly being called a “snowflake” by Haba and denied a promotion to sergeant after taking family leave to support his wife and newborn child.
“After plaintiff Rogers submitted his request for three weeks of family leave, he immediately received opposition from the department of human resources,” Gross alleges in the complaint, despite the fact Rogers was entitled to 12 weeks of leave at that time, according to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. “Not long thereafter, human resources granted him three weeks of leave, but it failed to explain why it illegally sought to restrict his family leave time from twelve weeks to five days,” the complaint states, adding that afterward, Rogers noticed his superiors treated him differently.
His shift schedule was changed without his input, the complaint states, and he was passed over for night shift work, which he preferred.
Haba called Rogers “disruptive” and a “bad influence” on the department’s younger officers, the complaint alleges.
It was when Rogers filed a second request for family leave to care for his second child, this time for 12 weeks, that Haba called him a “snowflake” to a Shaker Heights police officer, the complaint said.
Horwitz “discriminatorily” kept Rogers on leave despite Jones’ guilty plea and Rogers being injured in the incident, the complaint said. Jones was also injured in the incident.
The complaint states that Horwitz discussed Rogers during recent interviews with candidates for police chief, including Stillman.
“Horwitz ultimately chose to hire Chief Kelly Stillman to be BPD’s chief of police because he received assurance that there is ‘just cause’ for Plaintiff Rogers’ termination,” the complaint states.
Stillman told the CJN on Oct. 14 he had no knowledge of Rogers or the incident prior to his hiring.
“The only thing I knew was what I saw in the news and could remember from over a year-and-a-half ago,” he said. “So, it wasn’t too much.”
After the 2019 incident, Rogers applied for workers’ compensation. He suffered injuries to his ankle requiring surgery and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, the complaint states.
“For over a year, defendants Horwitz and Beachwood have wrongfully interfered with plaintiff Rogers’ rights under Ohio Worker’s Compensation laws,” the complaint states, adding that Horwitz has not interfered in other cases.
The complaint names Pasch for his “stigmatizing comments” about Rogers, specifically, Pasch’s remarks, “The incident is horrible and was avoidable,” and “In my opinion, the use of unjust deadly force cannot result in a second chance.”
In addition, the complaint states, “Horwitz, Haba, Calta, Supler and Beachwood repeatedly and maliciously requested that plaintiff Rogers be criminally prosecuted for justifiably shooting Jaquan Jones.”
Rogers “has been, ready, willing and able to perform light duty work,” the complaint states.
Gross calculated the city of Beachwood has paid out $100,485.08 in settlements since Horwitz took office in January 2018.
Rogers is seeking to be reinstated and promotion to sergeant. He is also seeking compensatory damages “economic and noneconomic” for “emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, stress, depression, back pay, front pay, loss of pension, and any and all other continuing injuries and damages they suffered and will suffer in the future.” The complaint also asks for punitive damages for Rogers.