The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association this week defended its plan to raise money for an officer by raffling off a gun similar to one he used to kill an unarmed man.
Cleveland Officer Alan Buford was put on desk duty in March after he shot and killed 18-year-old Brandon Jones while trying to arrest the unarmed man on suspicion of burglary.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that the union was raising money for Buford because desk duty meant that his supplemental income had been restricted. Buford could no longer earn overtime or moonlight with part-time jobs and he was having trouble paying the bills, Loomis said.
To help the officer out, the union is throwing a fundraiser by raffling off a 40-inch television and a Glock 26 pistol. A poster for the August 8 event was seen Monday on the sixth floor of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.
Civil Rights attorney Paul Cristallo, who is representing Jones' family, argued that the police union had crossed the line by raffling off the same style weapon that Buford used in the killing.
"It's grossly offensive. Simple as that," Cristallo pointed out. "Whether it was a mindless mistake or a sick joke, it's still offensive."
Police spokesperson Lt. Ali Pillow confirmed that a Glock 17 or a Glock 19 was issued to most patrol officers. He said that some detectives carried the smaller Glock 26, like the one depicted in the fundraising poster.
On Monday, Loomis dismissed the idea that raffling off a gun to support an officer who killed an unarmed man sent the wrong message.
"We are not trying to send any message to anyone," Loomis insisted. "We are privately attempting to raise some money for a member and his family in need."
According to the Plain Dealer, the Cleveland police had not yet completed its investigation into Jones' death and turned over the file to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. Jones' family has said that he did not deserve to die for stealing a bag of loose change and cigarettes.
"Money won't bring my son back," mother Tanya Brown said after the killing. "I've been poor my whole life, I don't need money. I do need justice."