COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Department of Justice has announced it will investigate the death of a Black man shot and killed outside his grandmother’s home Friday by a sheriff’s deputy searching for a fugitive.
Casey Christopher Goodson Jr., 23, of Columbus, was shot multiple times in the torso, according to the Franklin County Coroner’s Office. An attorney for Goodson’s family told The Washington Post that he was shot in the back as he unlocked the door.
“My grandson just got shot in the back when he came in the house,” Goodson’s grandmother told a dispatcher in a 911 call obtained by The Associated Press. “I don’t know if he’s OK.”
Goodson’s shooting has garnered the attention of Black Lives Matter activists, who are planning rallies for the weekend to demand charges against the deputy who killed him. The deputy, identified as Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Meade, is white.
Yesterday my Godson CASEY GOODSON JR was killed by police. He was shot in the back while entering his home. He had just returned home from the dentist. He was kind. He was a black man. He loved his family. #justiceforcaseygoodson
— Kenyetta Sealey (@kbagby55) December 5, 2020
Goodson had just returned from a dental appointment when he was slain, his family said. His grandmother, 72, and two toddlers, including Goodson’s 5-year-old brother, witnessed the aftermath of the shooting.
“As Casey lie on the ground dying, the unopened Subway sandwiches that he brought for himself and his family sat next to him in a pool of blood,” the family’s attorney, Sarah Gelsomino, said in a news release from her law firm, Walton + Brown LLP. “Even hours after his death, the keys that he used to let himself in the house as he was shot and killed hung in the door — a reminder to his family of how close he was to safety.”
A GoFundMe page set up by Goodson’s family to help with his burial stated that the bullets that struck him pierced his heart and lungs. As of Wednesday, the fundraiser, which had a goal of $9,000, had raised close to $72,000.
Gelsomino said she, like Goodson’s family, questions the official version of events. She said that the police narrative “leaves out key details that raise cause for extreme concern.”
“I question what threat Casey was presenting as he was unlocking the door to go inside his own home with his family,” Gelsomino told the Post on Monday.
Meade was searching for a fugitive in an unrelated case when the shooting took place, authorities said. A 17-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, he serves as both a county SWAT team member and a member of the U.S. marshals’ Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Task Force.
Casey Goodson Jr. is yet another young Black man who should be alive today. Our hearts break for another family who has lost a son at the hands of the police.
I join the Columbus NAACP & Mr. Goodson’s family in calling for a full investigation of this tragedy. #JusticeForCasey pic.twitter.com/2nxA92REwh
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) December 8, 2020
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U.S. Marshal Peter Tobin told reporters the day of the shooting that Meade confronted Goodson after Goodson drove past the deputy and waved a gun at him, the AP reported. Tobin, who described the shooting as “justified,” said Meade ordered Goodson to drop the weapon as he exited his vehicle, and Goodson refused.
Goodson’s sister, Kaylee Harper, wrote on social media Saturday that authorities were lying.
“My brother literally walked across the yard, walked into the back fence to get to the side door, had his Subway and mask in one hand, keys in the other, UNLOCKED AND OPENED THE DOOR, and stepped in the house before shooting him,” Harper wrote on Facebook. “IF HE WAS SUCH A THREAT, WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG TO SHOOT?”
Goodson was carrying a legal handgun at the time of his death. It was recovered at the scene of the shooting.
“Casey carrying a weapon within his right does not justify him being shot,” Gelsomino told The Post. “I really question the police narrative because those family members did not hear any orders to drop a gun.”
Goodson’s mother, Tamala Payne, disputed Meade’s claim that her son failed to comply with an order.
“His body fell into the house with the sandwiches, with the bullet holes,” she told CNN. “If my son was given a command, he would have listened.”
The Columbus Division of Police, which is investigating the shooting, reported Saturday that no other officers witnessed the shooting. There is also no camera footage of the alleged confrontation.
“Franklin County Sheriff’s (Office) task force officers are not issued body cameras,” a statement from Columbus police officials stated.
Though the shooting took place within the jurisdiction of the Columbus Division of Police, no Columbus officers were involved. The investigation into the incident was immediately turned over to the agency’s detectives.
Columbus police officials requested Monday that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation take over the case but the BCI declined to do so. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose office oversees the state agency, said the delay in seeking BCI assistance was the reason.
We were invited in *three days* after the fact—after CPD processed & cleared the scene, after the first round of witnesses were interviewed, after the canvass.
We do these tough investigations all the time—but from the beginning. This one belongs to CPD. https://t.co/l5tpgcf5ov
— Dave Yost (@Yost4Ohio) December 8, 2020
“We were invited in three days after the fact — after CPD processed and cleared the scene, after the first round of witnesses were interviewed, after the canvass,” Yost tweeted on Tuesday. “We do these tough investigations all the time — but from the beginning. This one belongs to CPD.”
Columbus officials said the back-and-forth did not interrupt the investigation of the case.
“(Police) Chief (Thomas) Quinlan’s interest in having BCI involved in the case was based solely on reassuring the public of maximum independence in the investigation of this tragedy,” a statement released on Monday said. “As he said in his statement earlier today, he has complete faith in CPD’s Critical Incident Response Team to investigate this matter fully and fairly. That has not changed.”
Columbus detectives are continuing to investigate whether Meade’s shooting of Goodson was legally justified. Federal agents are investigating to determine if Goodson’s civil rights were violated.
Last night I was briefed by Chief Quinlan regarding the death of Mr. Goodson. After the briefing I concluded that a federal investigation was warranted and have asked the FBI to work with CPD to that end. This case is now an open investigation in the SDOH. https://t.co/biUsSIMmID
— David DeVillers (@USAttyDeVillers) December 8, 2020
“After being briefed about the circumstances surrounding the incident by CPD, I believe a federal investigation is warranted,” David M. DeVillers, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said in a statement. “I have contacted the FBI and have requested that they work in conjunction with CPD to investigate this case through our office.”
Quinlan said bringing in the FBI brings the resources of the federal government into the probe.
“This offers the highest level of transparency and a clear path to the truth,” the chief said.
Once the criminal investigation is complete, detectives will turn their findings over to the Franklin County prosecutor for presentation to a grand jury.
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Gelsomino said in her firm’s statement that Goodson was not accused of committing any crimes and had no criminal background. He had a valid license to carry a concealed weapon, and Ohio allows the open carry of firearms. Harper, his sister, posted an image of his gun license on her Facebook page.
“It is troubling that authorities have already stated that they believe the shooting to be justified, prior to any investigation taking place and before any information has been released to the family,” the attorney said. “At this point, witness testimony and physical evidence raise serious concerns about why Casey was even confronted, let alone why he was shot dead while entering his own home.”
Payne told CNN her son was a law-abiding person who “would not have harmed a fly.” Goodson, who worked at the Gap, was saving his money to go into business for himself someday.
“The kid had a whole life ahead of him,” Payne told CNN’s Don Lemon. “He had plans, he had dreams, he had goals, and they were ripped from him for nothing.”