COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Police in Ohio’s capital city promised Friday to facilitate safe and peaceful demonstrations this weekend over the shooting death of a Black man by a white sheriff’s deputy, while noting body cameras will be worn to record all interactions.
Friday evening and Saturday afternoon protests were expected in and around downtown Columbus following the Dec. 4 killing of Casey Goodson Jr. Columbus police and the Justice Department are investigating.
Protesters’ First Amendment rights will be protected, said Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan in a statement. The division was criticized for overreacting to protesters during May and June rallies over racial injustice and police brutality.
“You have my personal commitment that we are here to facilitate a safe, peaceful opportunity for all voices to be heard,” Quinlan said in the statement.
Officers’ body cameras will be activated to ensure transparency and all officers’ badge numbers will be visible, he said.
Last week, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced the creation of a new, statewide standard for Ohio police departments to follow when dealing with mass protests, in reaction to problems that arose at numerous protests statewide this spring. The police should restrict the fewest freedoms possible, limit the use of force, target only harmful behavior, and use predictable and unbiased tactics.
No video of the fatal shooting of Goodson has emerged. The Franklin County sheriff’s office does not provide officers with body cameras, and the deputy’s SWAT vehicle did not have a dash-mounted camera.
The lack of images will make investigators’ jobs harder in an age when video of such shootings is commonplace, criminal justice experts said.
“It becomes really hard to know what exactly went down when the only person who can provide an account has a vested interest in presenting him or herself as having acted in a justified way,” said Justin Nix, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
The public now expects video because of a distrust of police accounts, said Michael Benza, a Case Western Reserve University criminal law professor. In the 2014 killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, for example, a security camera video disproved the initial police report and showed Rice being shot seconds after an officer’s car arrived.
“Jurors, and more importantly, the public expect to see video because they no longer trust what law enforcement or investigators say happened,” Benza said.
Attorneys and relatives of Goodson, 23, said he was killed by Deputy Jason Meade as he walked through the front doorway of his grandmother’s Columbus house.
Preliminary autopsy results showed Goodson died from multiple gunshot wounds to his torso. Two 911 callers reported hearing multiple gunshots that day.
Meade’s attorney, Mark Collins, disputes the family’s account and said Goodson pointed his gun at Meade, a 17-year veteran of the sheriff’s office.
Meade had been assigned to a U.S. Marshals Office fugitive task force that had just finished an unsuccessful search for a fugitive Dec. 4. Goodson was not a subject of that search. He was shot in a confrontation that took place after U.S. Marshal Peter Tobin said Goodson drove by and waved a gun at Meade.
Shortly after the shooting, Tobin said the action of Deputy Meade was justified before an investigation had been opened. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther criticized Tobin on Friday, saying he was wrong to make that statement.
“His words were inappropriate, uninformed and damaged the public’s trust in the investigation,” Ginther said in a statement.