A Black Man Was Killed By A Cop. There Are No Witnesses, No Body Cameras, No Cellphone Videos, And Only The Officer’s Story Of What Happened.
To know what happened in the last moments of 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr.'s life, his family will have to rely primarily on the account of the officer who killed him.
Casey Goodson Jr.'s family wants to know why the 23-year-old Black man was gunned down and killed outside his home by a sheriff's deputy. But the answers his relatives are getting from investigators are that there were no body cameras, no cellphone footage, no eyewitnesses, and no other officers to witness what really happened during Friday's deadly shooting in Columbus, Ohio.
To know what happened in the last moments of Goodson's life, his family's attorney said that they will have to rely primarily on the account of the officer who killed him.
"It's not enough at this point to just tell us [Goodson] is accused of waving a gun and something went wrong and he's dead," Sean Walton, an attorney hired by Goodson's family, told BuzzFeed News. "The family deserves better. The family deserves more answers. The community deserves to know what happened."
So far, authorities have said that the Franklin County Sheriff's deputy — who was part of a US Marshal's task force looking for a "violent" suspect in the area — saw Goodson waving a gun from his car and shot him after a "verbal argument." The deputy was identified as Jason Meade, a 17-year veteran with the sheriff's office.
Goodson was not the suspect that the US Marshal's task force was looking for and was not the target of any investigation, authorities said.
On Tuesday, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced that the Department of Justice and the FBI will be joining the Columbus Division of Police in investigating the shooting.
Columbus Police is investigating if Meade was "legally justified" in shooting Goodson, while the focus of the federal investigation will be whether the deputy violated Goodson's civil rights.
In a brief statement of "facts" about the shooting on Sunday, Columbus Police said that "no other officers witnessed the shooting" and "no civilian eyewitnesses have been identified."
The police also said that "there is no body camera footage captured of the actual shooting" as the Franklin County Sheriff's task force officers are not issued body cameras.
Given the lack of any corroborating eyewitnesses or video footage, Goodson's family has disputed the account of the shooting offered by authorities so far. They have raised questions about where Goodson was shot and why Meade appeared to be alone at the time of the shooting without other members of the task force present.
Peter Tobin, the US marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, said in a Friday press conference that the task force was wrapping up an unsuccessful search for a suspect — not Goodson — when the deputy saw Goodson allegedly drive past him while waving a gun.
"That’s when the deputy, at some point after that, he confronted him," Tobin said. "And it went badly."
Tobin alleged that Goodson was out of his car when the deputy ordered him to drop the gun and then shot Goodson after he refused to comply.
However, Goodson's sister, Sani Payne, told BuzzFeed News that Goodson had been shot as he was walking through a side door of the house, causing him to fall bloodied onto the kitchen floor.
Goodson's uncle, grandmother, sister, 5-year-old brother, and young cousins were in the home at the time of the shooting, according to Walton.
Walton said no one from the family heard an altercation between the deputy and Goodson, none of them heard orders to drop a gun, and that they did not learn anything was wrong until they heard multiple shots ringing out outside the house.
"They did not hear anything," Walton said. "There was no commotion, no shouting, no commands. The first they were alerted something was going on was the gunshots."
Goodson was licensed to carry a firearm, his family and attorney said. Authorities said that a gun was recovered from Goodson, but they have not said where the weapon was found or whether Goodson had drawn it when he was shot.
"While we're talking about the lack of detail coming from the deputy and the sheriff's office, it's important to point out what they have told us versus what they left out," Walton said. "At best that's misleading, and at worst, it's a lie."
Walton said family members who saw Goodson's body didn't see a firearm near his it. Instead, he said, Goodson was carrying a Subway sandwich and had left his keys on the metal screen door of the kitchen.
"Casey was shot as he was walking into his home, walked across the side door and put his keys in the door," Walton said. "He was shot through the metal screen door, and he fell and died in his kitchen."
The discrepancies have raised questions as to what really happened outside Goodson's home, but the lack of footage or eyewitness accounts has left only Meade's version of events to provide answers.
As of Sunday, Meade had yet to be interviewed by investigators.
Columbus Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday asking if Meade had spoken to investigators.
"It's concerning that there is no statement from the deputy," Walton said Monday. "So the longer we have to wait on the statement, and the longer we have to wait as to what happened, the longer we have to wait on what are they hiding."
Walton also questioned why Meade was on his own at the time of the shooting and why no other members of the task force were around.
The attorney claimed that Meade was by himself when he cleared out Goodson's family from their home at gunpoint after the shooting.
At one point, according to Walton, Meade yelled at Goodson's uncle to "get out of the house before I drag everyone outside the house," when the uncle struggled to open the front door.
"No other officers had arrived at that point," Walton said. "There was definitely no other officers that came in with [Meade]."
It wasn't until the family was out of the house, in the cold, that they saw other officers and patrol cars arriving at the house, Walton said.
When asked to address why Meade was on his own and about the lack of other task force members at the time of the shooting, the Franklin County Sheriff's office referred BuzzFeed News to the Columbus Division of Police, which did not respond to requests for comments.
There was also confusion around which agency was investigating the shooting.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) —which typically is the first to be called to investigate officer-involved shootings — declined to take the case because the agency had been referred to it too late.
On Monday, the Columbus mayor announced that the BCI had taken over the investigation at the request of Columbus Police in order to provide a "complete, timely and transparent investigation focused on facts and getting the truth."
Hours later, the BCI announced that it had rejected the case, stating that too much time had passed for them to take a case three days after the crime scene had been inspected and after potential witnesses had been lost.
"Not knowing all the reasons as to why so much time has passed before the case was referred to BCI, we cannot accept this case," the agency said in a statement.
"BCI is the first call because we cannot be the subject matter experts unless we're on scene from the beginning to document the evidence of what happened from the start," a spokesperson said. "Three days later after the crime scene was been dismantled and the witnesses have all dispersed does not work."
In a series of tweets, Ginther said the Columbus Division of Police would resume the investigation and refer its findings to the Franklin County prosecutor.
On Tuesday, Ginther announced the FBI and the Department of Justice would join the investigation.
"We all want the same thing which is truth and justice," he tweeted.