CLEVELAND -- Officials of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) released this statement on July 26. It was last updated at noon on July 28.
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At 4:40 p.m. on July 26, Transit Police officers on patrol peacefully removed a intoxicated 14-year old male from a bus. Police said the juvenile was intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.
Transit Police escorted the youth from the bus to a bus shelter on Euclid Avenue at East 24th Street.
Transit Police followed normal procedure, which is -- after pertinent information is collected, to release the juvenile to a parent or legal guardian.
Within minutes, a large crowd had gathered, surrounding the bus shelter. For the safety of the juvenile, Transit Police moved him from the open shelter area to a police cruiser. The crowd then surrounded the car, with some individuals pounding on the car in an attempt to remove the juvenile from the car. By this time, several other law enforcement agencies had also responded.
Cleveland Police reported to Transit Police that it received a tip that 4 armed individuals were enroute to the scene in a white Oldsmobile.
The crowd that surrounded the police cruiser kept it from leaving the area. When it was obvious that the car could not move forward -- due to approximately 50-100 individuals blocking the way and sitting in front of the car -- police attempted to back the car up, where fewer persons had gathered.
When members of Transit Police explained that their goal was to release the youth to his mother, several in the crowd asked that the boy be released to them, and that they, in turn, would give him to his mother. Transit Police explained that they could not release the boy to anyone except a parent or legal guardian.
Police tried to move back the crowd behind the vehicle to try to leave the scene, but individuals were not cooperating. Then, a Transit Police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to clear the way. This was ineffective, as additional persons filled in behind the car, once again blocking its departure.
After EMS arrived on the scene, the crowd cooperated with the officers and moved aside, so the juvenile could be escorted from the police cruiser to a waiting EMS unit to be examined.
After he was cleared by EMS at 5:47 p.m., the juvenile was released to the custody of his mother, who had arrived at the scene.
There were no arrests.
RTA will conduct an investigation to determine:
- Was the use of pepper spray proper in this situation?
- Was the use of pepper spray consistent with RTA Transit Police Policies and Procedures?
- Are the RTA Transit Police Policies and Procedures proper?
- Is Transit Police training appropriate?
- Is discipline or retraining appropriate for Sgt. Schwab, and/or others in this situation, and if so, at what level?
RTA will update this statement as more facts become available. Significant video from various perspectives was shown to the RTA Board's Safety and Security Committee meeting on July 28. Copies of RTA videos were also provided to the media.
The RTA officer who used the pepper spray was Sgt. Robert Schwab, a 25-year veteran of the force. Some sources have incorrectly reported that the officer involved was Sean O’Neil, which was not the case.
Sgt. Schwab has been placed on administrative duties until this investigation is complete.
- Jerry Masek
- 216-390-9605, cell