Police killing of man who hid gun in cruiser ‘justified’


CLEVELAND (AP) — Prosecutors in Cleveland have released a video that shows a man retrieving a gun hidden in the back seat of a park ranger’s cruiser and shooting her in her bulletproof vest before being fatally shot in an underground police parking garage.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office released excerpts of two video recordings Tuesday after announcing that the fatal shooting in December of Derek Stokes, 33, by two Cleveland Metroparks rangers was justified. Stokes was killed at the bottom of a ramp inside a garage beneath Cleveland police headquarters, where the rangers planned to book him.

Ranger Chelsea McLellan and Kyle Schultz fired 47 rounds at Stokes, authorities said. A medical examiner said Stokes was shot three times.

The encounter began with McLellan stopping a car driven by Stokes for speeding outside a waterfront park near downtown Cleveland and quickly learning he had a felony warrant. Other rangers arrived and found heroin, crack cocaine and a digital scale in the car.

Stokes was patted down and placed in the back seat of McLellan’s cruiser. That’s when investigators think Stokes removed a pistol from one of his boots and hid it beneath the back seat of the cruiser. The boots were then removed and checked during a second body search, an investigative report said.

A video from a camera pointed at the back seat of McLellan’s cruiser showed Stokes squirming as McLellan asks him questions about his life as she drove him to jail.

“You live with your mom?” McLellan asks.

“She’s about to have a fit,” Stokes replies.

While in the back seat of the cruiser, Stokes managed to gets his hands, which originally were handcuffed behind his back, in front of him. The investigative report said McLellan couldn’t see what Stokes was doing in the back seat because of darkness and reflections off the plastic barrier separating the front and back seats.

As the cruiser heads down the ramp into the garage, the video shows McClelland forcing a gun through a gap in the barrier. McLellan slams on the brakes, tossing Stokes into the plastic barrier. Investigators believe Stokes’ gun misfired twice before he shot McLellan in the shoulder of her vest, barely missing her head.

McLellan and Schultz then fire multiple rounds at the cruiser, shattering its rear windows while Stokes takes cover on the back seat. The video from McLellan’s cruiser shows windows being shattered while Stokes takes cover in the back seat. When the initial volley stops, the video shows him yelling “Kill me!” before crawling out a window.

A dashboard camera in Schultz’s car shows Stokes shooting at McLellan and Schultz, who return fire. Stokes then staggers away from the rangers and falls to the garage floor.

When McLellan orders Stokes to “get on the ground,” he yells back, “I’m not done yet,” gets to his feet and collapses again.

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