Casey Goodson Jr and his family were treated as suspects and law enforcement in Columbus, Ohio, quickly assumed a shooting that left the 23-year-old dead was justified, the family’s attorneys said.
“Casey was treated as a criminal. Not only Casey but his family were treated as suspects. They were treated as criminals,” family attorney Sarah Gelsomino told reporters on Thursday.
The responding officers “brought with them their bias against Casey, and in favor of (Franklin County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jason) Meade,” she added.
Goodson, 23, was fatally shot last week by Meade, a sheriff’s deputy working for the US Marshal’s fugitive task force as he tried to enter his own home. Columbus Police said the deputy was looking for violent offenders at the time, but Goodson was not the person being sought by the task force.
Nearly a week after the shooting, authorities have only provided vague details about the interaction between Meade and Goodson prior to the shooting. No other officers or civilians witnessed the shooting and there is no body camera footage of the incident, police said.
The US Attorney’s office in Southern Ohio has opened a civil rights investigation and Columbus Division of Police is handling an investigation into the shooting.
During the US Marshal’s task force operation in Columbus, Meade reported seeing a man with a gun and was investigating the situation when there was reportedly a verbal exchange prior to the shooting, the Columbus Division of Police said.
Goodson, an Ohio concealed carry permit holder, was legally armed at the time of the shooting, police said. Goodson, who was Black, was not alleged to have committed any crimes, has no criminal background and was not the target of any investigation, family attorney Sean Walton told CNN.
A review of court records did not show more than minor, traffic-related offenses for Goodson.
Tamala Payne, Goodson’s mother, told reporters on Thursday that about nine family members were inside the home, including four children, when the shooting occurred but they did not semae the encounter or see Goodson carrying a weapon.
Her family, Payne said, was forced outside the home after the shooting, some of them were not wearing shoes or coats.
Responding officers used offensive language toward them and refused to provide basic information about Goodson’s condition, Payne said.
When her son’s body was placed on a stretcher, “we knew that his eyes [were] open but we didn’t know if he was dead or alive,” Payne said.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said in a statement Thursday that his agency will conduct an internal review to determine if any offensive language was used and who may have used it. The sheriff’s office has not provided a comment about the shooting and referred calls to Columbus Division of Police, whose police chief promised an “independent, meticulous, unbiased investigation.”
“We hear your cries for more information and more answers. We hear your demands for justice,” Chief Tom Quinlan said in a Thursday statement. “The difficult reality is, very often in police work, information and answers are necessarily, unavoidably slow to come.”
“That is not in the interest of secrecy – it is in the interest of justice,” he added.
Peter Tobin, US Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, said last week a fugitive task force was wrapping up an unrelated investigation when a deputy saw a man with a gun.
“He was seen driving down the street waving a gun,” Tobin told reporters. “That’s when the deputy, at some point after that, he confronted him.”
Tobin said that during the confrontation the man “allegedly started to pull a gun and the officer fired.” He added that the shooting appeared justified but would be investigated.
The Franklin County Coroner’s Office has said Goodson’s manner of death, based on autopsy and medical death investigation findings, was homicide, though a final report was 12 to 14 weeks away.
“Cause of death, at this time is preliminary; we are awaiting medical records as well as the toxicology report,” Dr. Anahi M. Ortiz, in a statement, said of the autopsy performed on Tuesday. “However, based on current findings, cause of death is multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.”
Goodson’s family attorneys said the preliminary autopsy does not answer key questions about the deputy’s actions and renewed the family’s call for Meade to be charged with murder.
“Casey was someone who was killed on his kitchen floor,” said Sean Walton, another attorney representing the family. “Simply because he was a black man…his skin was weaponized.”
The shooting has fueled the criticism toward law enforcement in Columbus, a city of almost 900,000 people that has felt the weight of racial inequalities for generations.
Earlier this year, protesters and police clashed in Columbus during demonstrations with police firing rubber bullets and pepper spray. Some protesters were injured and arrested. Some Black police officers have said they are battling police prejudice and last month, the city voted to pay a $475,000 settlement to a Black police officer who said he faced retaliation for reporting racism and other misconduct by a superior.