SALT LAKE CITY — A mother who says a Woods Cross police officer pointed a gun at her 10-year-old son is calling for an independent investigation of the incident.
Jerri Hrubes said Friday she wants to see an outside agency look into the events that transpired the previous afternoon, when an officer searching for potentially armed suspects approached her son DJ while the boy was playing in the front yard. Hrubes sees the incident as a case of "clear prejudice" against her son, who is black.
"I don’t think what transpired yesterday was what a typical 10-year-old should or would be faced with from a police officer," Hrubes said.
Calls to the Woods Cross Police Department were not returned Friday.
Members of the Hrubes family and two passersby who witnessed the encounter have said the police officer pulled up in front of the house, got out of his car, pointed a gun directly at DJ, and told him to get on the ground, an order they say the boy complied with right away.
According to Hrubes, the officer then drove off without explaining his actions to her or her son. She says the officer returned later in the day to apologize to DJ, telling the child, "I am so sorry I pointed my gun at you."
The police department has described the incident differently. A spokesman for the department said Thursday that the officer was helping in a search following a high-speed chase when he spotted DJ in the yard and believed he might be involved. The department confirmed that the officer pulled his gun out of his holster and held it at the "ready" position, but said he did not point it at the boy's head and did not violate protocol.
The department also said that DJ, when first told by the officer to get on the ground, ran around to the back of the house; it wasn't until the officer followed him around the house, the spokesman said, that the officer pulled his gun out of his holster, believing the boy might try to run or jump the fence. When the officer realized DJ was younger than the suspect he was looking for, he put his gun away, the spokesman said.
As a white mother to a black son, I don’t feel safe in West Bountiful anymore. That changed after yesterday. I do not feel that he is safe, that any of my kids are safe. He hasn’t left my sight.
The spokesman noted that to an observer, the "ready" position could look as though the officer was pointing the gun at the child's head.
Hrubes and other witnesses say DJ immediately put his hands in the air and got down on the ground when told to do so, and that the entire interaction took place in the front yard.
The department does not have body camera footage of the interaction, a spokesman for the Woods Cross Police Department said Thursday.
The spokesman said that the officer involved will not face any disciplinary action, as no violations of protocol took place. He described the interaction as an "unfortunate situation" in which the child was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The Hrubes family isn't satisfied with that response.
Hrubes and an attorney with the Christensen & Jensen law firm in Salt Lake City said Friday that the family wants an independent investigation into the officer's actions Thursday, and the department's response, as well as — if it is found that the officer did not violate protocol — an investigation into the policies that would allow such an interaction.
The Salt Lake chapter of the NAACP and the group Mormon Women for Ethical Government have also called for official reviews of the incident. Mormon Women for Ethical Government condemned the officer's "indefensible" actions and the department's response in a statement Friday, calling for a "broader review of racial inequity in the department's policing standards" as well.
Organizers of Black Lives Matter Utah have called for the Woods Cross Police Department to fire the officer immediately, saying there will "definitely" be protests if the department does not do so.
"Don't tell me 'wrong place at the wrong time,'" organizer Josianne Petit said. "He was in his front yard. If you can't be in your front yard and be safe, where can you be?"
Hrubes emphasized that she is not, at this moment, calling for the officer to be fired. The family also does not currently have any plans to file a lawsuit. The attorney with Christensen & Jensen said she has been offering guidance to the family free of charge since Hrubes called her to ask for advice.
"I support all police officers," Hrubes said. "But I do not support putting a child of 10 years old at gunpoint with no explanations."
While the Hrubes family lives in Montana, they return to Utah roughly once a month so DJ can receive medical treatment, Hrubes said. The 10-year-old has ongoing medical needs, according to his mother, who explained he is mentally delayed and sight-impaired.
Before the incident Thursday, Hrubes said, she had been considering a move back to her hometown of West Bountiful. The encounter Thursday made her rethink a potential move.
"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, that any of my kids are safe. He hasn’t left my sight. It just doesn’t feel like it used to."