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Valley 15-year-old beaten, family demands justice after no arrests

Evan Cleveland
Posted at 4:52 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 07:52:34-04

PHOENIX — WARNING: The footage in the video above may be considered graphic by some viewers.

He has a broken nose, gashes in his head and cuts down his body.

Fifteen-year-old Evan Cleveland and his family are still unsure why the teen was beaten by someone they believe works at Raven Smoke Shop off 35th and Southern avenues on Monday.

"It hurt, I’m very hurt to see my son like that, and knowing I couldn’t be there to protect him," said Evan's dad, Harry Cleveland Jr. “I still haven’t gotten a police report. The police said that my son is a suspect and a victim and that the guy is a suspect and a victim, and how I don’t know."

On Monday afternoon, Phoenix police say they got a call to respond to a fight happening across the street from the smoke shop.

Evan and an unidentified 25-year-old man were involved. Police say both suffered injuries but couldn't say which of the two started the fight.

The incident happened moments after witnesses and police say someone inside the store shoplifted.

"[Evan] says he witnessed someone running from an establishment, and a gentleman chasing this person," said Lena Cleveland, Evan's mom. "He left he was coming home, and he said when he got over here across the street that a car pulled up and it was the man. He jumped out and exchanged words with Evan, and Evan said that he put his hands up to defend himself because he was nervous."

"He screamed, 'you robbed my f**** store' and was attacked," explained Lena. "He said, 'I tried to protect myself mom, but he hit me so hard I just blacked out, and when I woke up, I was on the ground.' He then said he tried to cover his face and scream, 'I'm a minor, I'm a minor,' but the man just said, 'f*** you,' and kept kicking him and it was an actual different store worker that ran out across the street, thank God, and stopped it."

A bystander called 911, and police showed up to the storefront where Evan stood covered in blood.

"My son never went in that store, he never stepped foot in that smoke shop. So, there’s no reason that my son should’ve been beaten like a dog," added Harry.

According to Phoenix police, the 25-year-old informed officers he knew Evan was not the same man who shoplifted from the store earlier.

Tyesha Brown, a witness, says she can confirm that. Brown says she was eating at the Angry Crab Shack, a restaurant located in the same shopping center, when she spotted someone running from the store.

"I see a young kid with all black on, running," said Brown. "When they turned that corner, they just so happened to see that boy in the blue, and just jumped out and jumped on him."

Evan was wearing a blue sweatshirt at the time of the incident, as shown in photos taken by his father outside the shop.

"I told myself, 'I’m not going to be able to sleep at night knowing that they are holding this little boy up and I can clearly see that’s not him,'" added Brown. Brown says she gave a statement to Phoenix officers on scene.

The Clevelands say they're upset and still unsure why the 25-year-old was not arrested or facing charges for the violent encounter.

"I want answers, and I want my son to get the justice that he deserves because he’s confused as to why this gentleman gets to live his life like nothing ever happened," said Lena. "I just don't see how you're not an aggressor if you get in a vehicle and drive up to someone who is walking, how you're not considered the aggressor in that situation, I can't wrap my mind around it."

The Clevelands say their son had never seen suspected shoplifter until Monday's incident, however, information provided Phoenix police contradicts that statement.

"The 15-year-old indicated that the shoplifting suspect was a friend of a friend," said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune in a statement to ABC15. "The 15-year-old also ran after the suspect and the 25-year-old male, this is when the confrontation among the two happened."

Still, Evan's family says the actions of that 25-year-old man were disturbing.

"I don't want it to get brushed under the rug. I don't," added Lena. "I don't know what he was thinking, let law enforcement take care of it. You don’t have to take matters into your own hands."