A mother is calling for an independent investigation into the conduct of a Woods Cross police officer who she said was being racist when he confronted and pointed a gun at her 10-year-old son’s head Thursday afternoon.
The Woods Cross officer — who police have not identified — came upon D.J. Hrubes, who is black, while searching for two shooting suspects. The officer is white, the boy’s mother, Jerri Hrubes, said.
Jerri Hrubes recounted the confrontation to reporters Friday during a news conference at Christensen & Jensen law office and asked for an independent investigation into what happened. The Salt Lake NAACP joined Jerri Hrubes call for an investigation on Thursday evening, saying they want assurance a confrontation like this won’t happen again.
“The NAACP is concerned that precautions were not taken for the safety and well-being of this young boy. The NAACP is also concerned that training and good judgement [were] not considered when approaching this young boy,” the group said in a statement. They also questioned why the officer’s body camera was not turned on.
Woods Cross police didn’t immediately respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment Friday, but told FOX 13 they don’t have a reason to investigate how the officer handled the situation.
The department previously told The Tribune that the officer “acted appropriately under the circumstances.”
Lt. Adam Osoro told The Tribune on Thursday that the officer pointed his gun at D.J. during a “dynamic and unfolding” search for two suspects that began in Centerville and ended in West Bountiful. The chase began with a report of a reckless driver who was shooting at other cars. When police approached the car, it sped away.
The officer came into contact with D.J. in the front yard of his grandmother’s house where he was playing. The family lives in Montana but often comes to Utah for D.J.'s medical treatment.
Jerri Hrubes said she heard police sirens outside and first thought there must be a fire nearby.
“I didn’t think much of it until I heard something in the front yard,” she said.
When she looked outside, she saw an officer with a pistol pointed toward her son’s head, telling the boy to put his hands in the air. When D.J. — who is developmentally delayed and has vision issues — asked the officer what he had done wrong, she said the officer told him not to ask questions.
The sight, Jerri Hrubes said, brought her “flying out of the house.”
She said she screamed at the officer, telling him that her son was just 10. She said she also asked for the officer’s name, but that the officer left without apologizing or explaining what happened, nor did he warn the family about the two possibly armed suspects they were searching for in the area.
After the officer left, Hrubes said she called 911 to report what had happened and said she wanted to file a formal complaint. She said she asked for two officers to come back over and take the report.
Instead, she said, the officer who pointed the gun at her son returned a few hours later and apologized to her son, and her son hugged the officer.
Hrubes got emotional describing the embrace. She took a moment to collect herself and said, "I don’t think what transpired yesterday was what a typical 10-year-old should or would be faced with from a police officer, and more important, I support all police officers. I see the good in them. I support them in everything.
“But I do not support putting a child of 10 years old at gun point with no explanation back to me.”
She said she feels like the officer acted more aggressively toward her son because the boy is black, adding that she has a white friend who lives on the same street, and instead of pointing a gun at those children, police warned them of the potentially dangerous situation and told them to go inside.
Osoro said that when the officer came across D.J. playing in the yard while searching for the shooting suspects, the officer asked D.J. to stop. Instead, Osoro said the boy ran to the side of the house, and then the officer drew his weapon and told the boy to get on the ground.
When the officer recognized the boy wasn’t either suspect — which Osoro estimated happened in about 10 to 15 seconds — the officer stopped and left.
Osoro told FOX 13, "We had minimal information at the time. We had one possibly Hispanic out on foot and we knew there was at least one other suspect involved. This kid was just in the area at the wrong time.”
Karra Potter, an attorney at Christensen & Jensen said it’s too early to say what Jerri Hrubes wants from an investigation. She said that depends on what the investigation reveals.
One thing is clear though: Jerri Hrubes said she doesn’t feel the same about police as she once did.
“As a white mother to a black son, I don’t feel safe in West Bountiful anymore,” she said. “That changed after yesterday. I do not feel that he is safe, that any of my kids are safe.”
Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are content-sharing partners.