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Cleveland officer acquitted in fatal shooting of burglary suspect fired

The officer was fired for violating his department's use-of-force policy despite being acquitted in the 2015 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Brandon Jones


By Courtney Astolfi
Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

CLEVELAND — The city of Cleveland fired a police officer for the deadly 2015 shooting of an unarmed burglary suspect.

Alan Buford was terminated Thursday after city officials found that he used excessive force in the March 19, 2015 death of 18-year-old Brandon Jones. The shooting happened while Buford and another officer investigated a break-in at the Parkwood Grocery store in the Glenville neighborhood.

Cleveland Public Safety Director Michael McGrath's administrative review found that Buford violated the department's use of force policy "by using force greater than what was necessary during the incident."

Buford was charged with misdemeanor negligent homicide, but Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Michael Sliwinski found him not guilty after a three-day trial in July.

The acquittal came despite testimony from his partner, Gregory King, who said during trial that he thought the shooting was unnecessary.

Jones' mother, Tanya Brown, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Buford, King and the city in March 2016. Her attorney, Paul Cristallo, called Jones' death an "avoidable tragedy" and said he and his client were pleased that the city was "doing the right thing" in holding Buford accountable.

"I think it certainly validates what we've been saying all along -- that Officer Buford didn't have to shoot Brandon. It's a step toward accountability," Cristallo said.

Cleveland police union president Steve Loomis argued that Buford's firing was unfair and an "unwarranted attack" on city police officers. 

"Officer Buford was acquitted of all charges against him -- demonstrating that he acted within the appropriate legal standards governing officer conduct," Loomis said in a statement. "Apparently the city believes it is somehow fair and just to fire an officer who was acting within the limits required by law."

Loomis said a grievance was filed on Thursday and that the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association will seek arbitration to get Buford reinstated. 

At trial, defense attorney Henry Hilow successfully argued that the shooting was justified because a reasonable police officer would have been in fear for his life during the encounter.

Buford and King first approached Jones as he backed out of the Parkwood Grocery store with a bag of stolen goods.

Each officer grabbed Jones with one hand as they kept their other hands on their guns.

Buford shot Jones moments after officers grabbed him, King testified at trial. 

Hilow argued that evidence showed Jones may have grabbed at Buford's gun before the officer fired the fatal shot. King testified that he didn't see Jones' hands and wasn't sure if Jones grabbed at Buford's gun.

©2017 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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