Family and members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe are questioning why a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a 14-year-old Native American boy in northern Wisconsin on Wednesday morning.
Jason Pero was walking home in the Bad River Reservation in Ashland County, WI, just before noon on Wednesday when a deputy with the Ashland Co. Sheriff’s department fired several shots at him. According to a release from the Ashland Sheriff’s Department, officers were called to the scene over reports of a man carrying a knife:
On November 8, 2017, at approximately 11:40 a.m., the Ashland County Communications Center received a 911 call from an Odanah resident reporting a male subject walking around Maple Street carrying a knife.
Ashland County deputies responded to the scene. At approximately 11:48 a.m., shots were fired by a responding deputy and the suspect was struck by gunfire. The deputy involved is uninjured. The suspect was treated by Bad River First Responders and Ashland EMS at the scene and was transported to Memorial Medical Center in Ashland by Ashland EMS. The suspect was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
On Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is leading the investigation into the shooting, claimed a knife was found at the scene.
However, Pero’s family insists Jason was no threat to anyone, and question the Wisconsin DOJ’s narrative. Neighbors who witnessed the shooting say he was merely carrying a cell phone at the time of his death.
“[Jason] never had one mean bone in his body,” his grandfather, Alan Pero, told the Associated Press. Holly Gauthier, Jason’s mother, described her son to the AP as “a big teddy bear,” insisting that there’s “no reason you can justify shooting a 14-year-old boy.”
I have reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for comment and will update this post if I hear back.
According to Ashland Schools Superintendent Keith Hilts, Pero had left school early that day, saying he was sick.
On Wednesday, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe’s tribal council released a statement addressing Pero’s death. It read in part:
The Tribal Council is deeply saddened and troubled by today’s event, and they offer their condolences to the family at this time. This is an extremely hard day for everyone; in times like this the community must come together, and help each other heal.
A vigil for Pero sponsored by the Native Lives Matter movement was held in Minneapolis on Thursday evening. A GoFundMe campaign—titled “Justice for Baby Jay”—has also been set up by family members following Pero’s death.
The Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations plans to turn the results of their inquiry into Pero’s death over to a prosecutor within 30 days. According to WDIO, the officer who fatally shot Pero has been put on administrative leave.