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Akron releases bodycam footage, officer personnel file following April 1 police shooting

photo of Akron police shooting
Akron Police Department
Bodycam footage from Akron Police Officer Ryan Westlake shows the moment right after Westlake shot a 15-year-old Akron resident who had been carrying a replica gun.

On Monday, Akron police released bodycam footage from the April 1 shooting of a 15-year-old Akron resident by officer Ryan Westlake.

The city also released the officer’s personnel file, including information on several lengthy suspensions since 2021.

In the footage, which runs for 30 seconds without sound because officer cameras are designed to include the half-minute of video from immediately before an officer turns it on, Westlake can be seen talking on the radio in his patrol car as he pulls up to the scene.

The audio comes on right as he responded to a call about a suspicious person near the intersection of Newton Street and Tonawanda Avenue in the Goodyear Heights neighborhood shortly after 7 p.m. No sound from his siren is audible on the recording as he stops the car and starts to get out.

“Where are you coming from?” Westlake is heard saying to an unseen person on the sidewalk close by. “Can I see your hands real quick?”

Immediately after asking to see his hands and before getting all the way out of his patrol car, Westlake fires.

The juvenile who was shot is not visible in the video at this point.

“It’s fake. It’s fake. It’s fake. It’s fake,” said the juvenile, who police did not name, said to Westlake over and over again after being shot. At this point, he is visible in the footage, holding his hands in the air, as Westlake walks toward him.

A gun, which police now say was a replica, can be seen lying on the tree lawn between Westlake and the juvenile, who is Black.

Other officers arrive at the scene soon after, the video shows. Walker puts handcuffs on the juvenile, who’s now lying on his stomach, and then takes them off to apply a tourniquet to his arm. There’s blood visible on his right hand.

“I’m a good kid, bro. I get A’s in school. I play football. I just wanted to be safe. My cousin just died,” the young person said to the officers as they provided medical care.

Police were called after receiving a 911 call about a male pointing a gun at houses, according to police.

Westlake is on administrative leave while the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations investigates the shooting, according to police.

Westlake's personnel file, released Monday by Akron Mayor Shammas Malik’s office, shows he joined the Akron Police Department in 2014. Before that, he was in the National Guard, serving nine months at a base in Afghanistan as a military police officer.

For the first few years as an Akron Police officer, Westlake’s performance reviews describe an “enthusiastic” officer who rarely took time off. There are repeated mentions of poor judgment from his supervisors, but no details are offered.

In 2021, after what he described as a “stressful situation” led to an extended leave of absence, Westlake was on duty when he was involved in a traffic stop and arrest where he used profane language repeatedly toward members of the public.

That incident, and two other off-duty episodes where the department found he got drunk and behaved in ways that “discredited the police department” resulted in departmental discipline. In one of those incidents, in January 2021, Westlake "muzzled" his girlfriend with his gun, the documents show.

The specifics of what happened during that incident are unclear. The word muzzle typically refers to the open end of the barrel of a firearm.

The day after that incident, Westlake went on paid administrative leave “until further notice” but discipline was not initiated until after the traffic stop incident two months later.

The disciplinary process led to a 71-day suspension, 45 of those days were for the incident with his girlfriend. Westlake appealed the decision to the mayor at the time, Daniel Horrigan, but Horrigan decided Westlake should be fired from the department.

In a letter to Westlake dated July 20, 2021, Horrigan said he had reviewed police reports, victim statements and Westlake’s version of events.

“I sustain the charges and determine that Officer Westlake is not fit to be an Akron Police Officer and I terminate his employment with the City of Akron effective immediately,” Horrigan wrote.

Westlake was reinstated and forced to serve the 71-day suspension.

It’s unclear why the decision was reversed. An agreement dated one day after Horrigan’s letter and signed by union chapter President Clay Cozart, Westlake and then-Deputy Mayor Randy Briggs said an agreement had been reached to reinstate Westlake and have him serve the full suspension.

That was not the last of discipline issued against Westlake.

Westlake was disciplined for three misconduct cases in 2022: one for using his patrol car to intentionally strike a vehicle he was pursuing; another for failing to provide his name and badge number to a member of the public; and a third a month later in December resulting in a 45-day suspension for failing to secure seized drugs.

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