A Cleveland police sergeant was “violently attacked” before he shot and killed a man outside a popular University Circle bowling alley, a union official said Monday.
Some witnesses, however, question whether Sgt. Dean Graziolli could have done more to ease tensions during the violent altercation that unfolded outside the Corner Alley Uptown late Saturday night.
The identity of the 21-year-old shooting victim has yet to be released.
Graziolli, a 26-year veteran, is on paid administrative leave while his use of deadly force is investigated by the department. He was off-duty, but in full uniform while working a secondary job at the normally popular but peaceful bowling alley.
For now, Graziolli is recuperating at home. He was treated for injuries to his mouth, face, neck and upper body, said Brian Betley, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“He took some pretty violent strikes to the face,” Betley said.
According to police, Graziolli escorted the man and another male out of the crowded bowling alley after the two customers began fighting inside about 11 p.m.
The fight only escalated outside on Euclid Avenue, with the 21-year-old using a large pole or stick, according to at least one witness.
Graziolli intervened, separating the two men, witnesses said. One combatant fled; the other man then focused his rage toward Graziolli, Betley said.
“[The 21-year-old] was in full attack mode,” he said. “[Graziolli] was getting struck pretty good. He was violently attacked.”
It was during the attack that Graziolli fired his weapon, striking the 21-year-old. The man lay on the ground while witnesses tried to provide first aid. They said a visibly shaken Graziolli, who was also bleeding heavily from the mouth, stood nearby.
“All he did was stand there. He didn’t touch him. He pretty much stood there and looked at him,” Roemele Duke said Monday. Duke was at the bowling alley celebrating a relative’s birthday.
The union official said he talked with Graziolli by phone Monday. He said the sergeant is “still in pain” from the attack. Stitches closed a wound to his mouth. He has bruises and contusions in his neck, face and chest, he said.
This was Graziolli’s first instance of using deadly force, Betley said.
Jashaya Duke, who was celebrating her 18th birthday, was at the alley with about 20 friends.
She doesn’t believe Graziolli did enough to deescalate the rage.
“I thought it was unnecessary,” she said. "I don't think he used the techniques he was supposed to use."
The alley was loud and crowded, she said. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves until the fight between the men suddenly erupted inside. She said the sergeant walked both men outside and then return to his seat inside.
Moment later, the fight unfolded again outside the alley. Her boyfriend, she said, initially helped separate the men. Graziolli also went outside to break up the fight.
She stood by a window and saw the aftermath.
"I looked outside and the male was laying there and blood was coming out of his chest," she said. "The officer had blood on his face and asking to call police."