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East Clevelanders Call For Firing Of Officer After Shooting

Vincent Belmonte's stepmother Nickey Duckworth after speaking with media Friday outside East Cleveland City Hall. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]
Nickey Duckworth at a press conference outside East Cleveland City Hall

Updated: 9:32 p.m., Friday, Jan. 8, 2021

Activists and two city council members are calling for the firing of Sgt. Larry McDonald, the officer who killed fleeing suspect Vincent Belmonte, Tuesday in East Cleveland.

“This officer has been a huge problem for a long time,” said East Cleveland activist Justin Anderson during a Friday press conference outside city hall. “I have begged the mayor, I have pleaded with him. Every time this officer did something that was outrageous, I begged the mayor to terminate him.”

The shooting occurred Tuesday morning in East Cleveland. After a vehicle pursuit, Belmonte fled on foot and McDonald, along with three other officers shown in the body cam footage, pursued him.

East Cleveland police claim that Belmonte had a gun.

Body camera footage obtained by cleveland.com appears to show McDonald turning his camera off during the chase that led to Belmonte’s shooting. Another officer’s body camera picked up the sound of three gun shots and shows two officers standing over a motionless body in the grass while McDonald stands a few feet away and then is led away from the scene.

Belmonte’s stepmother, Nickey Duckworth, doubted Belmonte would have pointed a gun at the police.

“He’s not an angry, urban child,” Duckworth said. “My family loves each other. My children are devastated from the loss of their brother.”

East Cleveland City Council Vice President Juanita Gowdy and Ward 3 Councilman Ernest Smith stood with Duckworth and local activists during Friday’s press conference. Gowdy said she had personally asked East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King to require McDonald wear a body camera.

“And for him to take off that body camera, we’re going to hold him accountable because it never should have been taken off,” Gowdy said.

Smith said he was there to support the family’s call for justice and hold local government to account, including himself.

“I’m here to be held accountable, even though it’s not my fault,” Smith said. “As an elected official I’m here with you.”

McDonald was recently placed on probation after getting a woman released from jail in exchange for a date, according to East Cleveland police.

McDonald is currently on paid administrative leave and the Bureau of Criminal Investigations in the Ohio Attorney General’s office is handling the investigation.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.