As a community grieves and a family has few words, Wisconsin investigators say the 911 call that preceded the police shooting of a knife-wielding Native American teen was made by the teen himself.
Ashland County Sheriff’s Deputy Brock Mrdjenovich fatally shot 14-year-old Jason Ike Pero after receiving a report that a male was walking down the street with a knife in Odanah, Wisconsin, about a 4-hour drive northeast of Minneapolis.
Odanah hosts the administrative offices for the Bad River Band Of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, of which Pero was a member.
“Pero approached Deputy Mrdjenovich with a large butcher knife and he refused numerous commands to drop the weapon,” said a report from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. “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.”
The middle-schooler was pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center in Ashland.
Mrdjenovich, who has been with the sheriff’s office for about a year, is on paid administrative leave. Officials say they found a knife at the scene of the shooting.
The state DOJ’s investigation indicates “Pero was the same person that called 911 reporting a man with a knife, giving his own physical description,” according to a news release from the agency.
A search of Pero’s bedroom supports reports that the teen had been despondent for a few days before his death, the DOJ said without elaborating.
Pero left school early Wednesday after saying he was ill, School District of Ashland Superintendent Keith Hilts told CNN affiliate KBJR. Hours later, he learned Pero was dead, he said.
The eighth-grader was part of his school’s drumming circle, which performed at Ashland’s Veterans Day celebration. Members of the group hung a photo of Pero on an empty chair and included Pero in their song as students locked arms in solidarity, KBJR reported.
Curtis Redbird drove more than 200 miles from Black River Falls to be with his family after learning his cousin had been killed by police. Pero had a “heart of gold,” Redbird told KBJR.
“Baby Jay, he was a real sweet kid. He always had a smile on his face,” he said, according to the station. “Nobody can believe that this happened to him because of the way he is, the way he was.”
Previously Pero’s relatives had released a statement saying, “The family has no words right now,” and thanking the Bad River community, its tribal council and other tribes for their support.
The state DOJ aims to turn over its reports to the Ashland County District Attorney’s Office by early December.