‘They matter just as much as the white babies’ — Black Lives Matter protesters call for Woods Cross officer’s termination after he pointed gun at black boy

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lex Scott leads chants at a protest organized by Black Lives Matter and other groups at the Woods Cross Police Department on Friday June 14, 2019. The rally was to show support for DJ Hrubes, a 10-year-old black child who was held at gunpoint by a police officer last week while playing in his grandmother's front yard.

Woods Cross • More than a dozen black children made their way out from between demonstrators to stand front and center at the protest outside the Woods Cross police station. They carried signs asking, in one way or another, “Am I next?” Some wore shirts that said, “I matter.”

Lex Scott, Black Lives Matter Utah’s leader, called them up to make a point.

“Ladies and gentleman,” she asked the crowd, “do their lives matter?”

The crowd resoundingly agreed. And if their lives matter, then that means they don’t deserve a gun in their face. And neither, Scott said, did D.J. Hrubes.

The crowd of more than 150 people had gathered Friday evening to call for Woods Cross to fire a police officer who pointed a gun at 10-year-old Hrubes, who is black. The officer pointed a gun at him on June 6 while police searched for two possibly armed suspects who’d been reported for shooting at cars in Centerville. The confrontation gained national attention after the boy’s mother, Jerri, held a news conference saying she believed the officer targeted her son because he is black.

The department initially defended the officer and said while an officer drawing his or her weapon doesn’t require an investigation, they’d forward along information to the Davis County attorney’s office to review. After District Attorney Troy Rawling said on Tuesday his office doesn’t “do ‘reviews,’” the police department announced Friday they’d tapped the state to investigate.

State investigators will determine whether or not the officer — whose name police haven’t released — broke the law, in addition to whether the officer acted with bias or racially profiled the boy, according to a news release.

According to a Wednesday news release from police, the officer spotted D.J. Hrubes in a front yard June 6, and that “a look of panic came over the young man’s face" when he saw the officer.

The officer said Hrubes ran toward the house but halted when the officer stopped his car. The boy then looked around, “as if seeking a route to flee," the release said. When the officer got out of his car, the boy “began running toward the officer, leading the officer to draw his gun.”

When the officer yelled for the boy to get on the ground, Hrubes listened. As the officer approached, he noticed the boy “appeared to have a cognitive disability,” decided he wasn’t the suspect and holstered his gun.

Hrubes is developmentally delayed, his mother has told reporters, and the family was in town that Thursday seeking medical care for Hrubes’ vision problems.

Since Jerri Hrubes came forward with her account of what happened that day, inconsistencies have appeared between her story and police’s, such as when the officer aimed his weapon at D.J. Hrubes, and whether or not the boy ran from the officer.

Scott noted one of the other discrepancies at the protest: police’s description of the suspects the officer was looking for when he came across D.J. Hrubes.

A media report from the day of the confrontation from on local news outlet describes the suspects as Polynesian men. Another news outlet listed one of the men as Hispanic and didn’t give information about another.

In a Wednesday news release, police said they were searching for one Hispanic man, in addition to a black man.

Scott told the department on Friday to “get your stories straight.”

Scott also said that police’s announcement of an independent investigation into the officer’s conduct doesn’t go far enough, and she is still calling for the officer to be fired.

When she arrived at the demonstration Friday, she yelled at the department through a megaphone, "We came here for police accountability and transparency. We came here to let you know you will no longer point your gun in the face of black children in Utah.”

The protest included a number of speakers, including Josianne Petit with Mama & Papa Panthers, Deb Blake with Utah Against Police Brutality, and Diana Bate Hardy with Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

The city of Woods Cross is about 90% white, according to the 2018 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Petit told the crowd during the protest that just because the city is predominantly white, doesn’t mean black children don’t deserve to feel safe there, too.

“There are black children in these communities, and they matter just as much as the white babies in these cities,” she said, adding it doesn’t matter if they are a “3-foot-6 [inches] or 6-foot-3 [inches]″ child.

“Our kids are kids,” she said later.

After about an hour of chanting and hearing from speakers, and after a small group of dissenters had gathered across the street, Scott asked the protesters to turn their backs to the street and face the police station for the group’s send-off to the city.

She asked them to raise their fists and repeat after her: “You will give us justice!"

“You will give us justice!” the crowd roared back.