Native Lives Matter

Updated Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, 2:19 a.m. EST: On Saturday the Wisconsin Department of Justice released the initial findings of its investigation into the fatal police shooting of 14-year-old Jason Pero of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe, which occurred Nov. 8.

The Wisconsin DOJ claims that Jason called 911 at approximately 11:00 a.m. Wednesday and described himself to the dispatcher. The Wisconsin DOJ further claims that when deputies responded, Jason ignored calls to drop a “large butcher knife” and repeatedly lunged at the officers, causing Deputy Brock Mrdjenovich to fire his weapon at approximately 11:48 a.m., killing the child.

Mrdjenovich has been with the Ashland County, Wis., Sheriff’s Department for one year.

According to the Wisconsin DOJ, it found evidence that Jason had been “despondent” for several days before he apparently initiated his suicide by cop. As The Root previously reported, Jason had been sick several days with the flu, according to his family.

Because we here at The Root know how this goes, I have submitted an open-records request for all video—including dashcam footage—and 911 audio related to Jason’s killing.

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We will update this story when, and if, the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department responds.

Read the state Justice Department’s findings below:

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), at the request of the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office, has been investigating an officer involved death (OID) that took place on November 8, 2017 in Odanah, Wis., which is located on the Bad River Reservation.

The Ashland County Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call reporting a male subject walking on Maple Street carrying a knife. Ashland County Sheriff’s Deputy Brock Mrdjenovich responded to the scene and encountered a 5’9”, 300 pound male subject who fit the description given by the 911 caller. The subject was later identified as 14-year-old Jason Ike Pero. Pero approached Deputy Mrdjenovich with a large butcher knife and he refused numerous commands to drop the weapon. On two occasions, Pero lunged at the deputy while the deputy was attempting to retreat. Deputy Mrdjenovich fired his service weapon at Pero, striking him twice. Life-saving measures were initiated however, Pero was pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center in Ashland. DCI has determined Jason Pero was the same person that called 911 reporting a man with a knife, giving his own physical description. Initial information indicates that Pero had been despondent over the few days leading up to the incident and evidence from a search warrant executed on Pero’s bedroom supports that information.

Deputy Mrdjenovich has been interviewed by DOJ and is on paid administrative leave in accordance with Ashland County Sheriff’s Office’s policy. Deputy Mrdjenovich has worked for the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office for approximately one year.

The family members of Jason Pero have been offered victim witness services by the DOJ Office of Crime Victim Services.

The Ashland County District Attorney’s office will receive the written reports following the conclusion of the investigation. DCI aims to turn over all OID investigative reports to the prosecutor within 30 days of the incident.

The Wisconsin DOJ-led investigation of this incident has been a collaborative effort between DCI, the Wisconsin State Patrol, and the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory. The Ashland County Sheriff’s Office has been fully cooperating with DCI during this investigation.

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Be clear: Even if this child were holding a knife—which has not been proved—he did not deserve a bullet through his heart. But that is the state’s instinct when it sees children of color as neither children nor human beings worthy of protection.

Jason’s classmates at Ashland Middle School held a ceremony on Friday in his honor:

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Earlier:

An Ashland County, Wis., sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a 14-year-old boy last week, and organizers and activists within the Native Lives Matter movement have joined the boy’s family in demanding answers.

Jason Ike Pero, 14, went to school Wednesday but came home because he didn’t feel well, his mother, Holly Gauthier, told WDIO-TV.

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His grandparents Alan and Cheryl Pero, with whom Jason has lived since he was 1 year old, said that the child had the flu.

At approximately 11 a.m., the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department allegedly received a 911 call that a man holding a knife was walking around East Maple Street in Odanah, the cultural center of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians Reservation.

At 11:48 a.m., Pero, an eighth-grader at Ashland Middle School, was fatally shot twice, once in the heart and once in the right shoulder.

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Police, of course, claim that a knife was recovered at the scene. Witnesses on the reservation, however, say that Jason was holding a cellphone.

The incident took place in Alan and Cheryl’s front yard, the New York Daily News reports.

“At first I didn’t really know that was him lying there,” Cheryl Pero said. “When I was finally able to get a glance and recognize the clothing, that’s when I lost it. They cut off his shirt. It was laying there and they were doing (chest) compressions. That’s all I have my head.”

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If Jason did have a knife, he wasn’t doing anything criminal or violent, Alan Pero said.

“He was a big old teddy bear,” Pero said. “He teased his little nephews once in a while, but that was the meanest part he had. Maybe he was doing something [with the knife], but he’d never hurt a fly. Never in his life.”

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The Ashland County Sheriff’s Office posted a press release on Facebook detailing the state killing, but ordered people to “refrain from commenting” on the post.

“He was a very, very beautiful kid,” Dylan Jennings, a Bad River tribal-council member, said of Pero. “He was one of our singers at the middle school.”

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“We’re a very unified community,” Jennings continued. “It’s going to be a long journey for our community to heal. There’s a lot of anger.”

Jason’s mother, Holly Gauthier, is from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Red Cliff Chairman Rick Peterson issued the following statement Thursday:

On behalf of the Red Cliff Tribal Council and our entire community, I extend our prayers and condolences to all of Jason’s family, and also to all our brothers and sisters of the Bad River Community. It is with great sorrow and concern that such a young life was lost under these circumstances. We stand by each and every one of you and offer our assistance and support in any way we can. As the days go on, there will be many emotions and much grieving. We ask that as these difficult days pass, we do all we can to support each other.

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Native Lives Matter held a vigil for Jason on Thursday evening at the Minneapolis American Indian Center in Minneapolis, Indianz.com reports.

As previously reported by The Root, indigenous people are, statistically, more likely to be killed by police than any other race or ethnic group. Although indigenous people face extremely high rates of police brutality, rape, suicide and illness because of limited access to quality health care, this nation—the nation of their rapists and murderers and plunderers—has continued to intentionally terrorize them, over and over and over again.

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Make no mistake: This is genocide.

We saw this with Rexdale Henry; we saw it with Sarah Lee Circle Bear; we saw it with Allen Locke; we saw it with Renee Davis. We see it, now, with Jason Ike Pero.

The officer who killed Jason is currently on paid administrative leave.