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Cuyahoga County grand jury decides not to indict East Cleveland officer in deadly January shooting

Vincent Belmonte was shot and killed by an East Cleveland police officer on Jan. 5, 2021.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County grand jury has declined to indict an East Cleveland police officer who was involved in the deadly shooting of Vincent Belmonte earlier this year on Jan. 5.

That decision involving Sgt. Larry McDonald was announced during a Friday morning press conference from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

"By law, what the grand jury heard is not permitted to be disclosed," Yost said during his press conference. "We are not allowed to discuss anything under criminal rule six that occurs in a grand jury that is, by law, secret.”

Yost added they are working to maintain transparency, however, by posting results of the investigation in their entirety online HERE.

“Those documents will be completely available for anybody to see on the internet so you know exactly who’s talked to, what the evidence was, what the facts were and hopefully by doing so we are going to increase the public trust of this process," Yost explained.

We streamed Yost's full press conference, which you can watch in the player below:

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He also repeatedly labeled the entire situation as a tragedy.

"I have children and grandchildren of my own," he said. "I can’t imagine the grief that the family must bear in burying a 19-year-old son or grandson. My heart goes out to them. My heart goes out to the community because this is a loss for all of us. It gives all of us a little less feeling of security. Yet, at the end of the day, Sgt. McDonald did what his training and his duty required him to do in the protection of himself and to others. The grand jury has rendered its decision."

Yost then highlighted a few facts from the case:

  • Belmonte had a weapon. It was recovered on the scene with an extended magazine that was visible to Sgt. McDonald.
  • Weapon was seen during a pursuit before the final confrontation and Sgt. McDonald radioed that he had seen it.
  • Final part of pursuit occurred on foot in a residential neighborhood.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Anthony Pierson then joined the press conference to provide more detail about the investigation itself. He said Sgt. McDonald was with another officer when they came across a vehicle with a loud muffler. The vehicle, driven by Belmonte, stopped briefly before fleeing the scene.

Pierson said police pursued the vehicle through the city of East Cleveland at speeds estimated at 50-60 mph in "a dangerous manner," striking a fire hydrant at one point.

Belmonte and his two passengers eventually exited the vehicle and fled on foot, Pierson said.

“He actually ran out of his own shoes, Mr. Belmonte did, as he was running from the police officers," Pierson said.

During the chase, Pierson said Belmonte climbed over a fence before Sgt. McDonald could make it over. That's when the shooting took place.

“As Mr. Belmonte is reaching into his hoodie, he’s attempting to pull out his handgun," Pierson said. "It’s at that time Sgt. McDonald discharged three rounds from his police-issued firearm. Those three rounds caused four injuries. We’re not able to determine which shot came first, or which one impacted Mr. Belmonte first.”

Pierson noted the vehicle had been reported stolen months earlier.

Shortly after the shooting, President of the Euclid National Association and Advisory Council of Policymaking of Northeast Ohio Cassandra McDonald filed a civil service complaint against Sgt. McDonald, the officer they claim to be responsible for Belmonte's death, stating that he had been malfeasant in his role. 

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Editor's note: The video in the player above is from a previously published, unrelated story.