BALTIMORE — Tears roll down 13-year-old John DeVault’s eyes as he recalls an incident that has left him clearly distraught.
He tries his best to describe what happened until it all proves too much and he holds his head in his hands.
Only days earlier the boy, a resident of Baltimore, witnessed his uncle being shot in the leg by a police officer.
It was just after 7 pm when 40-year-old John Joseph Rau was on his way to pick his nephew from an art studio where the boy had just finished a class.
DeVault says he saw a black SUV driving “really slow” like it was looking for someone.
He says he did not pay much attention to it and continue talking to his friends.
Then, as soon as he turned around he saw someone in a white shirt get out of the vehicle.
The boy says this person started yelling at his uncle.
We now know that he was Commander Maj. Byron Conaway, who has been an officer for 16 years, and who had been accused of resorting to physical abuse in the past.
The teenager, who was watching this scene in confusion, did not understand what his uncle had done and why he was being yelled at.
What scared him even more was that Officer Conaway was holding a gun.
Rau had a cigarette in one hand and a Chapstick in the other.
Despite telling the officer repeatedly that he was not armed, he shot the victim in the leg.
“I don’t understand, he kept saying ‘all I have is a Chapstick‘,” says a visibly upset DeVault.
The boy’s mother Diane Warren wants to know how she should explain this to her children. She said her son is already asking if he should run if the police stop him.
It is fair to say that the family is suffering from trauma of sorts – emotional and physical.
Rau’s wound, he says, is extremely painful.
The senseless attack has also left him confined to a wheelchair.
He plans to file a lawsuit.
After all is said and done, one has to wonder how much harm a container of lip balm can cause to an armed policeman.
Perhaps, DeVault puts it best: “I don’t know how you feel threatened by a Chapstick, especially when you have a gun and a tazer”.
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