(CLEVELAND) — A dozen juveniles have been charged in connection with an “appalling” and “chaotic” incident at a Cleveland gas station in which a group attacked a man and fired guns before fleeing in stolen vehicles, officials said.
The attack occurred early Tuesday, around 12:40 a.m., when the group was captured on video beating a 34-year-old man, according to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley.
“When I watched this video early yesterday morning, I was disgusted and appalled watching the level of violence directed at someone who appears to be simply doing nothing but sitting outside of a gas station,” O’Malley told reporters during a press briefing Wednesday.
Investigators do not believe that the group knew the victim, who was eventually able to retreat inside the gas station, O’Malley said.
“The man is lucky to be alive,” O’Malley said.
Several minutes later, the “situation turns to complete chaos as dozens of bullets are fired indiscriminately” down the street, O’Malley said.
“It could have caused a great deal of destruction. Thankfully, no one was injured by these dozens of bullets,” he said.
One suspect discharged a handgun 18 times, according to O’Malley. Four or five firearms are believed to have been at the scene, he said.
The juveniles, who ranged between the ages of 12 and 16, then fled the gas station in three stolen vehicles — two Kias and a Hyundai — the prosecutor’s office said.
Cleveland police officers responded to the gas station following reports of shots fired and found dozens of shell casings from different guns at the scene, officials said.
Shortly after 2 a.m., Cleveland police responded to a report of screams coming from a home in a nearby neighborhood, city officials said. There, they found two cars similar to ones observed at the gas station parked outside, as well as 13 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 hiding throughout the basement, officials said. Two firearms were also recovered from the residence, according to the prosecutor’s office.
All the teens were taken into custody of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. Twelve have since been charged by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. The charges include felonious assault, aggravated riot, discharge of a firearm on or near prohibited premises, receiving stolen property, and criminal damaging or endangering, among others, the prosecutor’s office said.
Cleveland Police Chief Wayne Drummond said the group is believed to have been involved in “multiple” incidents in the city and calls themselves the “Kia Boys.” One of the teens was wanted in connection with a homicide, he said.
“I’m not a proponent of mass incarceration. Let’s get that clear. I am not. But I am a proponent of keeping our neighborhoods safe,” Drummond said at the briefing. “And if that means putting … violent juveniles behind bars to make our neighborhoods safe, then I’m a proponent for that.”
Drummond called the behavior captured on video “animalistic.”
“People may come back and say, I can’t believe the chief said that, but look at that video — to attack that man who was doing absolutely nothing, it’s animalistic behavior. And we can’t have that in our communities — we’ll not accept that,” he said.
Two individuals captured in the footage at the gas station remain unidentified, including a suspect in a gray hoodie who appears to be holding an AR-15-style rifle, the prosecutor’s office said.
The incident remains under investigation.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb denounced the “unacceptable” behavior, while highlighting programs offered by the city so that young people “have safe activities to do in our community.”
“This behavior is unconscionable, immoral and quite frankly unacceptable in our city,” Bibb said at the briefing. “Our administration will not spare any expense to keep our city safe. It’s going to take every part of our community, from the prosecutor’s office to our courts, to law enforcement at every level, to keep our city safe and secure.”
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