By Brad Brooks
(Reuters) – A former sheriff’s deputy in Columbus, Ohio, was charged with murder on Thursday in the December 2020 shooting death of a 23-year-old Black man, who was shot in his back five times as he entered his home.
Former Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Meade, 44, who is white and retired following the shooting, faces two counts of murder and one count of reckless homicide for killing Casey Goodson, according to the grand jury indictment filed in Franklin County court.
The killing last year sparked protests amid a wave of racial justice demonstrations that called for accountability for law enforcement officers who gun down Black men in the United States.
Special prosecutors Gary Shroyer and H. Tim Merkle said in a written statement that the charges followed an investigation by the Columbus police department, an FBI corruption and civil rights squad, and the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General.
Meade turned himself in on Thursday and will have his first appearance in Franklin County Municipal Court on Friday, his attorney, Mark Collins, said in an emailed statement. He will plead not guilty.
Goodson was shot in his back five times and was hit once in his buttock by bullets, according to the coroner’s report released in March, which ruled the death a homicide.
More details about the shooting remain murky. Meade was not wearing a body camera and there are no known eye witnesses to the incident.
Meade was working for a U.S. Marshals Service task force at the time of the Dec. 4, 2020, shooting. He was helping search for a fugitive, who was never captured, when he saw Goodson in the Northland neighborhood of Columbus.
Meade’s attorney Collins said in his Thursday statement that Goodson was seen by his client erratically waving a gun around as Goodson drove a car, and that he had pointed the weapon at Meade.
The deputy gave a detailed account of what was happening to other members of the fugitive task force team via radio, Collins said. Fellow officers arrived to provide backup, but none witnessed the shooting. Meade followed Goodson as he made his way home. He fired on Goodson after the suspect raised his weapon with his right hand and pointed it toward Meade, according to Collins.
But Sean Walton, a lawyer for Goodson’s family, said by phone that those details amounted to an “implausible story” manufactured by Meade, who he said was desperate to escape conviction.
Walton said Goodson had no criminal record and there had never been any reports of him behaving in any sort of erratic way with his gun.
“Meade’s story makes no sense,” Walton said. “Casey was a concealed carry permit holder because he believed in following the law, and he cherished his right to bear arms.”
Goodson’s family has said that he was returning home from a dentist appointment with three sandwiches in his hand when he was shot by Meade.
Goodson’s mother, Tamala Payne, said in media interviews last year that her son was armed at the time of the shooting, and confirmed that he had a concealed carry license.
During a press conference on Thursday, Payne said she was “overwhelmed with joy” following Meade’s indictment.
The family on Thursday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Meade and Franklin County in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Walton said.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said in a statement after the indictment was announced that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but that he was calling on his staff to raise standards and “determine how this agency can best learn from this tragedy.”
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Daniel Wallis)