By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS for the Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio sheriff’s deputy who shot Casey Goodson Jr. in the back five times was charged with murder Thursday, as Goodson’s family also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit and the now-retired deputy publicly shared details of what happened from his perspective for the first time.
The December 2020 shooting of Goodson, who was Black, by longtime deputy Jason Meade, who is white, led to protests in Columbus and many lingering questions, in part because the killing wasn’t recorded on body or dash camera footage.
Meade’s lawyer says the deputy fired when Goodson pointed a gun at him. Goodson’s family has said he was holding a sandwich, not a gun, but noted he also had a license to carry a firearm.
The case remains under criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office with help from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Goodson’s mother, Tamala Payne, said she was “overwhelmed with joy” at word of the indictment Thursday.
“It’s been a year of sadness, it’s been a year of grief, it’s been a year of pain,” Payne said at a late morning news conference, surrounded by several relatives. “But I know that every day of this year, that my family and I wake up and just fight for what’s right.”
The Dec. 4, 2020 shooting happened as Meade, a 17-year member of the sheriff’s office, was finishing an unsuccessful search for a fugitive as part of his work for a U.S. Marshals Service task force. Goodson was not the subject of the fugitive search and the Marshals have said Meade wasn’t performing a mission for them at the time of the shooting.
The deputy began a pursuit of Goodson after he said he saw him pointing a gun at another driver and then at Meade, according to a lengthy account from Meade’s perspective released by attorney Mark Collins Thursday. Meade himself has not spoken publicly about the shooting.
Meade in his car followed Goodson, whom the deputy said was “waving the firearm erratically,” and then parked and put on a tactical vest identifying himself as a member of the Marshals’ task force, according to the statement.
Meade followed Goodson on foot as Goodson walked toward a house, with Goodson carrying a gun in his right hand and a plastic bag in his left, the statement said. Meade identified himself as an officer and ordered Goodson to show his hands, according to Meade’s account. He thought Goodson was about to comply when Goodson turned and lifted his right arm back, pointing the gun at the deputy, the statement said.
Meade “commanded Mr. Goodson to once again ‘drop the gun,’ and when that command was ignored, and while the gun was pointing at Mr. Meade, he, in fear for his life as well as those inside the house, fired his weapon at Mr. Goodson,” the statement said.
Relatives say Goodson was opening the door to his grandmother’s house at the time he was shot. Investigators said that a gun was recovered from the scene but have not provided further details.
The family has said Goodson had a sandwich, not a gun, in his hand. But even if Goodson had been carrying a gun, the family has reiterated, he had a license to do so.
The Franklin County coroner said in March that Goodson had been shot five times in the back.
A judge scheduled an initial hearing Friday for Meade, who will plead not guilty, Collins said.
“We intend to litigate this case in a manner to ensure that all stones are turned over and Jason gets the process he’s due,” Collins said.
Also Thursday, attorney Sean Walton announced the family’s wrongful-death lawsuit against Meade and the sheriff’s office.
The lawsuit claims Meade received hundreds of hours on firearms and SWAT training but little on violence deescalation techniques, despite subpar performances as a deputy, including being placed on “no inmate contact status” for nearly four years. The lawsuit did not provide details of the reasons for that placement.
The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, representing the sheriff’s office, doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits, said spokesperson Kayla Merchant.
Although the shooting did not involve Columbus police, it came at a time of heightened tension over previous shootings of Black people by officers in Ohio’s capital, a situation made worse less than three weeks later when a white Columbus police officer shot and killed 47-year-old Andre Hill as he emerged from a garage holding a cellphone.
That officer, Adam Coy, who was subsequently fired, has pleaded not guilty to murder and is scheduled for trial next year.
Large protests followed Goodson’s shooting, with people shouting “Justice for Casey” as they blocked downtown streets.
Meade retired July 2 on disability. The deputy had been on administrative leave from the sheriff’s office since the shooting.
Sheriff Dallas Baldwin had previously said that the autopsy did not “provide all of the facts needed,” and that he will wait until the criminal investigation is complete before pursuing any disciplinary action against Meade.
Baldwin said Thursday that he has asked his staff to review the investigation when possible, to see what the agency can learn.
“This office has a professional obligation to do everything in its power to ensure the community and our deputies are kept safe,” he said in a statement. “As I’ve said from the very beginning, I pray for everyone involved in this tragedy.”
In June, Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack appointed two outside prosecutors to investigate, since the county prosecutor’s office serves as legal counsel to the sheriff’s office and anticipates having to defend the county and the law enforcement agency in this case.