Prosecutors say a gun that a former Ohio sheriff’s deputy said a man was waving at him when he fatally shot him in the back in 2020 was found in the man’s kitchen with the safety on.
In his opening statement Wednesday in the murder case against Jason Meade, special prosecutor Gary Shroyer shared publicly for the first time where 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr.’s handgun was discovered. Goodson, who fell when he was shot six times with five shots hitting in the back, also had a gun holster with no strap around his waist, Shroyer said.
Meade, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murder and reckless homicide in the death of Goodson, who was black. The sheriff’s deputy shot Goodson as he entered his grandmother’s house, police have said.
The jury hearing the case was seated Tuesday, and testimony was expected to start Thursday. Jurors made a brief visit Wednesday afternoon to the scene of the shooting.
Shroyer emphasised numerous times on Wednesday that Goodson was holding a bag of sandwiches in one hand and his keys in the other at the time he was shot. He also had his AirPods in his ears, Shroyer said. Neither he nor Goodson’s family have ever disputed that Goodson could have been carrying a gun, but note that he also had a licence to carry a firearm.
Based on Meade’s aiming at “vital organs” and shooting of an assault-style rifle, Shroyer said Meade’s actions meet the criteria for knowingly and intentionally causing Goodson’s death.
“Casey did not pose a reasonable threat to him or anybody else at the moment when he pulled the trigger,” Shroyer said.
Meade’s defence team maintained Wednesday that Goodson waved and pointed a firearm at Meade from his vehicle as Meade drove by and that Meade pursued Goodson to his grandmother’s home. Meade previously said that Goodson turned to lift his gun before entering the home and aimed it at the deputy, prompting Meade to fire.
Defence attorney Kaitlyn Stephens said that Goodson did not heed warnings to stop and drop his weapon and that Meade feared for his safety and the safety of others, including those inside Goodson’s grandmother’s house, and therefore was justified in using deadly force.
“You have to look at the totality of the circumstances,” Stephens told the jury in her opening statement, and she said that they are instructed to look at what a reasonable officer could have believed about the situational need for deadly force.
“Officers on the beat are not afforded the luxury of hindsight,” Stephens said.
Meade was not wearing a body camera at the time, so there is no video evidence of the shooting.
A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed by Goodson’s family and is seeking unspecific damages. It alleges that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office failed to investigate claims of unreasonable force against black residents and failed to properly train deputies on firing guns at civilians, “particularly at African Americans.”
A federal judge has paused the lawsuit against Meade and Franklin County until after the criminal case. The officer had argued that simultaneously defending himself in both cases would put him in a no-win situation.
Meade’s attorneys had sought to have his case tried in federal court as a step towards having the state charges dismissed and because it was far less likely Meade would be charged with killing Goodson under federal law.
Franklin County prosecutors fought the move in order to keep the charges alive in state court. A federal judge ruled in February 2022 that Meade was not acting in his role as a deputised U.S. marshal at the time of the shooting and said the murder case must remain in state court.
Meade did not have authority to arrest Goodson as a task force member and was not acting as a federal officer at the time, federal Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. found. Meade was a full-time Franklin County Sheriff’s Department deputy on regular assignment with a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force immediately before the shooting.