The police shooting of Casey Goodson: What we know

Andy Downing
adowning@columbusalive.com
Casey Goodson

On Friday, Dec. 4, Franklin County Sheriff’s SWAT deputy Jason Meade shot and killed Casey Goodson, a 23-year-old Black man who was neither a suspect nor the focus of any investigation. While countless questions remain, here’s what we know so far about events surrounding the shooting.

The lead-up to the shooting

Authorities and family members have shared conflicting stories about the lead-up to the shooting. Peter Tobin, the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, said on Friday that a fugitive task force consisting of marshals and FCSO SWAT members, including Meade, had finished an unsuccessful search for a "violent suspect" when Goodson drove by and waved a handgun. On Sunday, Columbus police said only that Meade “reported witnessing a man with a gun.”

The task force has not yet named the suspect for whom they were initially searching or the charges the person was wanted on, only that Goodson was not involved.

The Dispatch reported that Meade was driving an unmarked car. It is not known how Meade was dressed or how he might have identified himself to Goodson as a law officer, or if he even did.

The shooting

A statement issued on Sunday by Goodson family attorney Sean Walton said that Goodson had been shot in the back after returning home from a dentist’s appointment. “As Casey lay on the ground dying, the unopened Subway sandwiches that he bought for himself and his family sat next to him in a pool of blood," the statement read. “Even hours after his death, the keys that he used to let himself in the house as he was shot and killed hung in the door – a reminder to his family of how close he was to safety.” 

The statement also noted that Goodson’s grandmother and two toddlers witnessed the shooting, which appears to be contradicted bya 911 call made by Goodson’s grandmother in which she tells the dispatcher that she heard gunfire and entered the room to find her grandson lying in a doorway. She also told the operator that he appeared to be shot in the back.

In a press conference today, Goodson's family called for murder charges to be brought against Meade. During the press conference, Walton said that following the shooting, Meade pointed his gun at Goodson’s uncle, who was holding his 3-year-old daughter, and told him to “get out of this house before I shoot you, too.” Tamala Payne, Goodson's mother, added that she was called a “bitch” by a deputy at the scene. (Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin released a statement that an internal review would be conducted to see if such language, which he termed "unacceptable and unbecoming of a law officer," has been used.)

In Tobin’s Friday remarks, the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohiosaid Meade followed and confronted Goodson, told him to drop a gun and shot him when he didn't. Tobin said a citizen heard those orders but that no eyewitnesses had been found.

Finally, today, a lawyer for Meade said that Goodson pointed a gun at the deputy prior to the shooting, as reported by WOSU. Attorney Mark Collins also said that "there has been confirmation that our client gave verbal commands for Mr. Goodson to drop the gun." It is unclear from where this confirmation has come, as authorities have repeatedly stated that there are no eyewitnesses to the shooting.

Goodson’s gun

On social media, Goodson’s mother said he was licensed to carry a firearm, sharing a photo of what she said was his concealed carry permit. In a weekend press release, Goodson family attorneys noted that “Casey was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and Ohio does not prohibit the open carrying of firearms.”

Police have said a gun “was recovered from Mr. Goodson,” but offered no details as to whether it was drawn or holstered, or from where it was recovered.

A lack of witnesses

Authorities said there are no witnesses to the shooting and that Meade was not equipped with a body camera because cameras are not currently issued to deputies with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. (Baldwin recently said the goal is for the department to purchase cameras sometime in 2021.) There is also no cellphone footage of the shooting as with other recent high-profile incidents of violence against Black citizens by police, meaning the primary account of the shooting will come from Meade. 

On Wednesday,CPD released a statement that said there were “reports of a verbal exchange” between Meade and Goodson, but did not attribute these reports to a source.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Walton said no one from the family heard any altercation between the deputy and Goodson, none of them heard orders to drop a gun, and that they did not learn anything was wrong until they heard multiple gunshots outside of the house. In a press conference today (Thursday, Dec. 10),Goodson family attorneys said that nine people (five adults and four children) were in the house when Goodson was shot and killed.

The autopsy

On Wednesday Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortizruled Goodson’s death a homicide, citing “multiple gunshot wounds to the torso” as the preliminary cause of death. The initial autopsy report did not reveal, however, if Goodson was shot in the back, as his family has claimed. A full autopsy is not expected for 12-14 weeks.

The coroner’s homicide ruling does not mean there will be charges brought against Meade, however, and CPD recentlysaid it was still investigating "whether or not the deputy was legally justified in shooting Goodson."

The investigation

Initially, the Columbus Division of Police saidthis investigation would be handled by its Critical Incident Homicide Detectives, since the shooting took place in its jurisdiction but did not involve CPD officers. But on Monday, Columbus police spokewith the Ohio Attorney General's office about having its Bureau of Criminal Investigation take over the investigation, which initially appeared to have approval. The request was ultimately denied by Attorney General Dave Yost, though, who cited the fact BCI was brought in three days after the shooting.

“[Three days]after CPD processed & cleared the scene, after the first round of witnesses were interviewed, after the canvass,”Yost wrote on Twitter.

In June, Mayor Andrew Ginther signed an executive order requiring that all deaths involving police use of force or deaths in police custody be referred for investigation to the Ohio attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Finally, on Tuesday it was announced thatfederal authorities would join Columbus police in the investigation, withU.S. Attorney David DeVillers stating that the FBI, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the Columbus Police Critical Incident Response Team would collectively "review the facts and circumstances" surrounding the shooting.

"I believe a federal investigation is warranted," DeVillers said.

Follow the Dispatch online and on Twitter for breaking updates on the Goodson case.