COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Casey Goodson Jr., a Black man, was shot five times in the back by a white Ohio sheriff’s deputy last December, according to a final coroner’s report released Thursday.
The final autopsy confirmed statements previously made by Goodson’s family that the 23-year-old died after former Franklin County sheriff’s deputy Jason Meade shot him multiple times in the back and torso. Relatives say Goodson was opening the door to his grandmother’s house at the time.
“This family and this city have been through enough trauma and our healing cannot begin until Meade is held accountable for this heinous act,” Sean Walton, one of the attorneys for Goodson’s family, said in a statement Wednesday night.
“Jason Meade is a threat to the community and public safety each and every day that he continues to be free,” he added.
The Franklin County coroner listed the cause of death as a homicide — a medical determination used in cases where someone has died at someone else’s hand, but not a legal finding. It doesn’t imply criminal intent.
The shooting took place in Columbus on Dec. 4 while Meade, a 17-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was finishing up an unsuccessful search for a fugitive as part of a U.S. Marshals Office fugitive task force.
U.S. Marshal Peter Tobin has said that on the day of the shooting, Meade confronted the victim outside his home after Goodson, who was not the subject of the fugitive search, drove by and waved a gun at Meade.
One witness heard Meade command the victim to drop his gun, and when he didn’t, the deputy shot him, Tobin said after the shooting. The family has said Goodson had a sandwich, not a gun, in his hand.
Even if Goodson had been carrying a gun, the family reiterated, he had a license to do so.
Officials said that a gun was recovered from the scene but have not provided further details.
“My grandson just got shot in the back when he came in the house,” Goodson’s grandmother told a dispatcher shortly after, according to 911 recordings obtained by The Associated Press. “I don’t know if he’s OK.”
Shortly after the shooting, Tobin held a press conference where he called the shooting justified, a statement he later retracted.
While Meade had been working with a U.S. Marshals task force earlier in the day, both the Marshals and the sheriff’s office later said he was on his own time when the shooting happened.
A coroner’s determination of entrance and exit wounds has no bearing on what actually happened that day, since it doesn’t explain how the individuals were positioned at the time, said Mark Collins, a defense attorney representing Meade.
The coroner “can’t explain how a body was positioned — if they were bent over, if they were standing up straight, or how they were turned,” Collins said.
The case remains under criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office with help from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Once the investigation is complete, Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack’s office will review the autopsy before making a decision on whether to charge Meade. The deputy remains on administrative leave from the sheriff’s office.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said the final autopsy released Thursday “doesn’t provide all of the facts needed to give us those answers,” and that he will wait until the criminal investigation is complete before pursuing any disciplinary action against Meade.
“I want to be clear that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office use of force policies prohibits any deputy from using deadly force against anyone who doesn’t pose an immediate threat to the officer or to others,” Baldwin said in a statement. “However, I also want to emphasize that criminal investigations over the years have shown that the physical location of gunshot wounds alone do not always tell the entire story of what happened.”
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.