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Metro officer who shot man reaching for ball cap won’t lose job, sheriff decides

Updated Monday, July 22, 2013 | 6:51 p.m.

A Metro Police officer saved his job by reversing an earlier decision and admitting he made mistakes last year when he shot a man on a domestic violence call.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie said today in a news conference that he would not fire Officer Jacquar Roston, who in April was relieved of duty with pay after Metro’s Use of Force Board recommended his dismissal. Instead, Gillespie said, Roston would serve a 40-hour suspension without pay and must participate in training programs that will focus on his perception of danger. Upon successful completion of those programs, Roston could be reinstated to his patrol position, Gillespie said.

The incident in question occurred Nov. 11, 2012, while Roston was responding to a domestic violence call in the eastern valley. A woman called 911 to report that her ex-boyfriend had beaten her and damaged her vehicle, police said.

When police arrived, the woman got out of the vehicle and her ex-boyfriend remained inside. As Roston was speaking to the ex-boyfriend, he shot the man in the leg, police said. The man suffered injuries not considered life threatening.

Roston apparently mistook a hat with a metallic sticker as a weapon when the man reached under the seat and grabbed the clothing item. Gillespie said the man also was trying to hide bags of marijuana.

During a news conference today, Metro officials said Roston did not admit to making any mistakes in the incident during an interview with Metro’s Use of Force Board. But in subsequent interviews — including one with a Metro board that reviews recommended terminations and another with Gillespie — Roston did admit to some mistakes.

Among them was Roston did not make a radio call quickly enough to seek backup on the call in question.

The change of heart, Gillespie said, helped persuade the pretermination board to recommend discipline but not termination for the officer. After his own investigation into the incident, Gillespie concurred.

The sheriff called the 40-hour suspension without pay “significant.” Under Metro policy, 40 hours without pay is the longest suspension an employee can be given. Gillespie added that Roston’s attitude throughout the training and his learning on the subject matter would be monitored closely. Should Roston fail to make progress in the training, he still could be terminated, Gillespie noted.

"Based on his attitude, his willingness to learn and his prior employment history, I believe he will succeed," the sheriff said. "However, it is his responsibility to demonstrate that he can."

Gillespie noted that Roston's inexperience may have played a role in his decision-making that night — and that he encourages officers to admit mistakes when they occur.

Roston, 36 at the time of the shooting, has worked for Metro since April 2009. He was assigned to the patrol division of the Southeast Area Command.

"There was no rush," Gillespie said of making his final decision. "It took a while, but I believe it's the right decision."

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