Best ongoing stand: Tamala Payne fights for her late son, Casey Goodson
Determined to not let law enforcement officials drive the narrative around Goodson, who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy in December, Payne posts photos of him daily
In the days after a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 23-year-old Casey Goodson, Goodson’s mom, Tamala Payne, started a ritual in which she posted a new photograph or video of her son to social media each day, determined to capture the varying facets of his personality rather than allowing law enforcement to shape a narrative around him.
“The posts are to keep his name alive, his character alive,” Payne said during a mid-October interview in the Downtown office of the family’s attorney. “They can’t diminish his character. They can’t assassinate his character. I have pictures and videos of Casey in every light of his life from the time he was born until the moment his life was taken. In every picture of Casey you see the humanity, you see the love, you see the dignity, you see that he was family oriented. And you see nothing but that. And as long as I’m giving that to the people, and as long as they see me fighting and standing strong and keeping my momentum, then they’ll continue to fight with us.”
Not that it hasn’t been a frustrating process, particularly as the family has awaited the results of a lengthy investigation into the Dec. 4 shooting of Goodson by Franklin County Sheriff’s Office SWAT deputy Jason Meade. (An autopsy report released in March confirmed that Meade shot Goodson five times in the back; in a Twitter post written at the time, Mayor Andrew Ginther called the autopsy results "the last piece of the investigation prosecutors were waiting for.")
Seven months later, Payne is still in a holding pattern, her emotions often wavering from day to day and week to week, torn between an understanding that investigators need to be precise in their actions — “We’re dealing with an officer, so I need to allow them to take time and not rush through it,” she said — and a natural irritation that comes with wanting to know where the investigation will land, as well as what it could mean for the next steps.
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Through it all, Payne has continued to make her daily posts, tracing her strength in large part to the sense of loss she continues to feel, which helps her persevere even on those days where she’d like nothing more than to not be reminded of his death.
“I post Casey every day, and some days I don’t want to,” Payne said. “And not because I don’t love him, but because I don’t want to look at his picture. I don’t want to see his face. It hurts. It hurts to think of a caption or to write something about him, so some days I’ll just write something short because my brain is on overload and I can’t do it. But I’m not going to miss that post."
To stop or take a mental health day, Payne said, could signal to the world that her determination was somehow flagging, and so she continues to post even on days when she’s struggling with a sense of loss that feels as raw now as it did 10 months ago. “People will say to you, ‘Time heals,’” Payne said. “No it don’t. Time makes it worse. I’m still in as much pain as the day it happened. … You can be in the middle of laughing, having fun, but you still feel that hole, and there’s still that gap, and you can’t help but think of Casey. You’re always burdened with that pain of not having him.”
In communing daily with her son, though, Payne has been reminded of just how large his presence was within the family throughout his existence, a fact she occasionally took for granted when he was alive and which has reiterated itself as she’s cycled through the hundreds of photos in which Goodson, the oldest of 10 children, stands posed with his siblings. “I’m looking at pictures way back when Casey was 8 or 9 [years old] and he’s got two babies on his lap,” Payne said. “And this is stuff you don’t remember, you know what I mean? Then you go through the pictures and you realize that he really was always with the kids.”
Payne has continued to talk to Goodson in the months since he was killed, and she continues to feel his presence in her life, which sometimes reveals itself in the form of a butterfly, which has regularly made its presence known to the family in recent months.
Earlier this summer, on the way home from a family trip to Virginia Beach, Payne said a butterfly fluttered past the car, at which point she looked up and realized they were passing a car dealership. It’s name? Casey Chevrolet.
“It was out of the blue, out of nowhere,” Payne said. “In my eyes, that’s him letting us know, ‘I’m here. I’m with y'all.’ His presence is with us, absolutely.”