Citing ‘Prejudice,’ Mother Says Utah Officer Pointed a Gun at Her 10-Year-Old Black Son

Jun 6, 2019, 6:47 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2019, 5:00 am

WEST BOUNTIFUL, Utah — A West Bountiful family says a Woods Cross police officer pointed a gun at a 10-year-old boy’s head while the child was playing in his own front yard Thursday.

Woods Cross police said the officer was helping in a search following a high-speed chase Thursday when he spotted the boy in the yard and believed he might be involved. The department confirmed that the officer pulled his gun out of his holster, but said he did not necessarily point it directly at the boy and did not violate protocol.

The boy’s mother, Jerri Hrubes, sees the encounter as a case of “clear prejudice.” She believes her son, DJ Hrubes, was targeted because he is black.

“He committed the crime of being a child that’s black, in a town where there’s not a lot” of black people, Hrubes said. “To me, it’s ignorance.”

A lieutenant with the Woods Cross Police Department described the incident as an “unfortunate situation” that occurred because the 10-year-old was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He also said the department does not have body camera footage of the interaction.

Hrubes said the officer pulled over around 1 p.m. while her son was playing and running in the front yard, ordered the child to get down on the ground, and pointed a gun at his head. Hrubes and DJ’s sister, Farah Hrubes, said they both witnessed the interaction.

When the officer approached him, DJ said, he immediately put his hands up and lay down on the ground in the front yard. When he asked the officer what he did wrong, the officer told him, “I don’t want to hear it, just get down on the ground,” according to the 10-year-old.

Hrubes became emotional as she described watching the encounter from the front door of her home.

Jerrie Hrubes, pictured at her home in West Bountiful on Thursday, June 5, 2019, says a Woods Cross police officer pointed a gun at her 10-year-old son's head while the boy was playing in his own front yard. Woods Cross Police said the officer mistook the boy for a suspect while driving by the home Thursday. The department confirmed that the officer pulled his gun out of his holster, but said he did not necessarily point it at the boy.

Jerrie Hrubes, pictured at her home in West Bountiful on Thursday, June 5, 2019, says a Woods Cross police officer pointed a gun at her 10-year-old son’s head while the boy was playing in his own front yard. 

She said she rushed to intervene, crying out to the officer, “What are you doing? This is a 10-year-old child.”

Farah said she was inside the house when the officer first pulled up; she came outside, she said, to find a police officer pointing a gun at her brother’s head.

“My heart was beating,” Farah recalled through tears. “I was like, my little brother is in trouble, you know?… He’s my soul mate.”

Farah described her younger brother as a “nice person” who “loves everybody” and says hello to everyone he sees.

“I was so confused,” Farah said. “Like, my little brother did something wrong?”

DJ, too, said he was confused — and scared.

After the officer realized that the 10-year-old wasn’t the suspect he was looking for, he left without explaining to DJ or his mother why he had pointed a gun at the child, Hrubes said. The officer returned later in the day to explain.

The lack of an explanation at the time of the incident particularly bothered Hrubes as a mother, she said.

“I know that (the police) try to do the right thing, but … you can take two seconds to explain,” Hrubes said, adding, “any parent would be pretty upset to see an officer holding a gun to a child’s head and not giving any explanation.”

The encounter happened one week after DJ underwent surgery, his mother said. She said her son has ongoing medical needs, including problems with his eyes.

“I know he’s trying to do his job,” Hrubes said of the officer, “but I don’t think that you have the right to point a gun at the head of a 10-year-old child.”

The Woods Cross Police Department said the officer will not face any disciplinary action, as he did not violate protocol when he took his gun out of his holster.

DJ Hrubes was playing in the front yard before the interaction

DJ Hrubes was playing in the front yard before the interaction

The officer was searching for two individuals, believed to have been armed, who were involved in a police chase that began after a fight broke out at a park in Centerville, the department said. One of the suspects was described as a Hispanic juvenile. The race of the other suspect was unknown by police.

Woods Cross Police Lt. Adam Osoro said the officer pulled over and asked to speak to DJ; when the officer told DJ to get down on the ground, Osoro said, the boy ran around behind the house. The officer sensed DJ was confused and thought the boy might run or jump the fence, according to Osoro. He said the officer did not draw his gun until after he had followed DJ around the side of the house.

Osoro said the officer drew his weapon and put it in the “ready” position but did not necessarily point it at the 10-year-old, who Osoro said got down on the ground after running behind the house. The lieutenant added, however, that to a bystander, the “ready” position could look as though the officer was pointing the gun at the child’s head.

The officer was standing 15 to 20 feet away from DJ when he pulled his gun out, Osoro said. When the officer got closer and realized the boy wasn’t the suspect he was looking for, Osoro said, the officer holstered his weapon and apologized.

“Our officers would never intimidate a small child,” Osoro said. “This is just an unfortunate incident.”

The police department’s account of what happened differed from the accounts provided by members of the Hrubes family and another witness to the encounter, who happened to be driving by.

Isaac Parry, a recent graduate of Bountiful High School who did not know DJ or his family, was riding in a car with three friends when their vehicle was passed by police. The group then passed the Hrubes’ home and saw a young boy in the front yard. When Parry saw a police officer get out of his car and approach the boy, he told his friend to stop the car, he said.

Parry said that when the officer called out to the boy with his gun drawn and pointed at the child, the boy “immediately” put his hands in the air and went down to the ground “as if he threw himself to the ground, face down.” The boy was shaking and “appeared very, very nervous,” Parry said.

The officer walked toward the boy while pointing his gun at him, Parry said, but stopped when a woman came out of the house and called out to the officer.

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Citing ‘Prejudice,’ Mother Says Utah Officer Pointed a Gun at Her 10-Year-Old Black Son