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Akron police charge 15 year old shot by officer for carrying fake gun

A fake black gun
Akron Police
Akron Police
Akron police say they recovered this fake gun that a 15-year-old Akron boy was reportedly carrying when he was shot and injured by an officer on April 1, 2024.

The 15 year old shot by an Akron police officer in early April has been charged for carrying a fake gun, according to the Akron Police Department.

Tavion Koonce-Williams, a sophomore at East Community Learning Center was shot on April 1, after police received a call that a Black male was pointing a gun at houses. Officer Ryan Westlake fired a single shot, injuring Koonce-Williams in the hand. He was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police recovered the fake gun he was carrying.

Koonce-Williams was charged with facsimile firearm, a misdemeanor of the first degree, according to the police department. Akron's municipal code states replica or toy guns cannot be drawn, exhibited or brandished in a rude, angry or threatening manner with the intent to frighten or harass, unless it's in self defense.

"The actions taken by the city of Akron and the Akron Police Department are unconscionable. It is not a crime to have a toy gun. It is not a crime to be a 15 year old playing with toys. It is not a crime to be a Black kid in Akron, Ohio, doing what kids do," Imokhai Okolo, attorney for Koonce-Williams and his family, said in a statement. "Too often we see this city using their law department to weaponize criminal charges against Black youth in an attempt to avoid civil liability and shield themselves from political backlash. It’s disgusting, unethical and wrong. Our community deserves better."

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating the officer involved shooting. Westlake was placed on administrative leave. Akron police will also conduct an internal investigation to determine if department policies were followed. That investigation will be reviewed by the police auditor and the Citizens' Police Oversight Board.

Community organizers have demanded justice and accountability in the aftermath of the shooting. The Freedom BLOC, an Akron organizing group focused on Black leadership and political power, has called for Westlake to be fired, saying he's "unfit" to patrol underserved communities. In a press conference more than a week after the shooting, Koonce-Williams' family said they have been traumatized by the incident.

Body cam footage of the shooting shows Westlake firing his gun immediately after asking an unseen person on the sidewalk to show him their hands and before getting all the way out of his car. Koonce-Williams' was walking with the toy gun to his grandmother's house, family attorney Okolo said, and was shot while he was holding his hands up. Akron's police union said Koonce-Williams pulled a firearm from his waistband, and Westlake made a "split second life or death decision."

Westlake was nearly fired in 2021 after several misconduct violations. He was ultimately reinstated by the department and served a 71-day suspension.

Mayor Shammas Malik's office declined to comment on the charge since it's pending litigation.

Updated: April 19, 2024 at 4:51 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include a comment from the attorney representing the 15 year old charged with having a fake gun.

It was previously updated to add a response from the mayor's office.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.