Last updated: August 23. 2013 4:01PM - 301 Views

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FORT SHAWNEE — It started out as a routine traffic stop. For a rookie officer patrolling village streets on his own for the first time, it didn't stay routine for long, according to state investigative records.An equipment violation and a traffic violation started the chain of events that ended when a Fort Shawnee police officer shot and killed John T. Sowders, 20, of Cridersville, last month, according to a review of state investigative records released Wednesday. A grand jury this week declined to file criminal charges against the two officers who opened fire as Sowders charged an officer wielding a 12-inch-long hunting knife and threatening to kill officers.The early hours of Jan. 15 marked the first time Officer Justin Bentz, a rookie officer who graduated from the Apollo Basic Police Academy in August and was hired by Fort Shawnee in November, patrolled without Officer Justin Wireman, his training officer, alongside him in the cruiser. According to the investigative files compiled by special agents of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Wireman and Cpl. Darrell Fields were in a separate cruiser observing Bentz — a typical scenario during field training.Bentz told a BCI agent he noticed a car pulling out of the American Petroleum station on Breese Road with a headlight out. Bentz turned his cruiser around and began following the car and observed the car driving in the center of Delong Road. The vehicle turned into the Indian Village Mobile Home Park and came to a stop in the 100 block of Olentangy Drive after Bentz turned on his cruiser's overhead lights.According to multiple statements by officers to state agents, Sowders refused to comply with a series of police orders — first to roll down his car window all the way and eventually orders to exit the vehicle. Wireman reportedly told Sowders to exit the car or he would be forcibly removed. Sowders responded he wasn't leaving on his own.Bentz told state officials it took Wireman three pulls to remove Sowders from the vehicle. As Wireman began wrestling with Sowders, Bentz said that's when he first noticed Sowders had the knife and was trying to stab Wireman in his side. According to the report, it was during this confrontation when Sowders cut Wireman's hand, resulting in three stitches. According to the report, when Wireman freed himself, the officers tried to subdue Sowders with the stun guns.Bentz and Wireman said after being stunned, Sowders jumped up, looked at Bentz and said, “You [expletive] up. I'm going to kill you now.”Wireman told a state agent that Sowders charged at Bentz with the knife raised high and continuing to say he was going to kill him. Fearing that Sowders was catching up to Bentz, Wireman ordered Fields to shoot Sowders, according to the report.Fields and Bentz both fired their weapons at Sowders. In all, three shots were fired, with one of Fields' shots striking and killing Sowders, officials said.Sowders was taken to St. Rita's Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

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