COLUMBUS, Ohio – Former Franklin County Sheriff’s SWAT deputy Jason Meade was indicted Thursday in the death of 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr., who was shot in the back multiple times outside his home nearly one year ago.
The indictment, issued by a Franklin County grand jury, charges Meade, 44, with two counts of murder and one count of reckless homicide.
Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting, which occurred where Goodson lived with his grandmother. It happened just after Meade wrapped up work with a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force in an unsuccessful search for a suspect in the area.
Meade, a 17-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, left the sheriff’s office July 2 on disability retirement.
Meade turned himself in Thursday morning on the indictment charges, according to his attorney, Mark Collins, and will make his initial appearance in Franklin County Municipal Court on Friday.
He said Meade will plead not guilty, and they will ask for a reasonable bond to be set.
“The indictment was not a surprise, nor was the timing,” Collins said. “As we proceed through the critical stages of this case, the evidence will show that Jason Meade acted in accordance with” U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding use-of-deadly force by police.
Very little information has been released by investigators about the shooting, for which there are no known eyewitnesses and no video. Meade was not wearing a body camera, a piece of equipment that Franklin County deputies did not and still don’t have.
Nearly a year after the fatal shooting, the sheriff’s office said Thursday it is still finalizing policy guidelines for the implementation of body cameras. Once those policy guidelines are in place, the county commissioners will be able to place a purchase order. There was not immediately a timeline available for the completion of that process.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” Goodson’s mother, Tamala Payne, said about the indictment during a news conference Thursday morning called by the family’s attorney, Sean Walton. “My emotions are everywhere.”
Walton and Payne were flanked at the event by 15 other family members, all of whom wore shirts bearing images of Goodson.
“While we celebrate this win, we know this isn’t over,” Walton said. “We know the ultimate end game is a conviction for the murder of Casey Goodson.”
The fatal shooting a Black man by a white deputy led hundreds of people to block streets Downtown near the Ohio Statehouse in protests the following weekend. The unrest came just months after a spring and summer of racial-injustice protests locally and nationwide that stemmed from the death of George Floyd Jr. at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who eventually was convicted of murder and sentenced to 22½ years in prison.
The Columbus branch of the NAACP issued a statement Thursday applauding the grand jury’s decision and saying it was “troubled to learn that some feel that the community should not celebrate such victory while mourning their loved ones. This community has buried many sons and daughters to endless violence, and there must be time to grieve and celebrate the lives lost.”
An official with the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, the local police union that represents Franklin County Sheriff’s office deputies, Columbus police and other local law enforcement, released a statement expressing support for the grand-jury process, but also for Meade.
“It is not lost on us that this announcement comes only days before the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting and planned protest Saturday at City Hall,” wrote Brian A. Steel, FOP vice president. “Justice is not an outcome. Justice is a process. We continue to stand by retired deputy Meade and await the outcome of the jury trial. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to all the families impacted by this incident.”
Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said in a statement Thursday that he has “reminded my staff that while everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the standards for being a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy must be even higher than that of our criminal justice system.
“As law enforcement officers we must meet this higher standard because of the immense trust we ask the community to place in us. It’s vital to maintain that trust, which is why I’m asking members of my staff to review the facts from the independent investigation when we’re able to fully access them and determine how this agency can best learn from this tragedy.”
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin reacted to news of the indictment by tweeting that the announcement was “good to see… I hope it gives the Goodson family momentary relief as we approach the 1-year anniversary of Casey’s murder.”
Columbus City Council members announced on Nov. 4 that they would honor Goodson, a truck driver, by naming a publicly funded commercial driver’s license training program after him.
All fatal uses of force by law enforcement in Franklin County are presented to a grand jury under a procedure established decades ago by the county prosecutor’s office.
Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack hired veteran Columbus lawyers H. Tim Merkle and Gary Shroyer as special prosecutors to present the case on Goodson’s death to the grand jury.
Tyack chose not to prosecute the case himself because his office serves as the legal counsel for the sheriff’s office, and will have to defend the county against civil litigation relating to Goodson’s death.
Goodson family files federal civil lawsuit hours after indictment
Hours after Meade’s indictment, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of Goodson’s estate by his family in U.S. District Court in Columbus. The lawsuit names Meade and Franklin County as defendants.
Walton said during the news conference that the lawsuit was not filed as a result of the indictment, but because certain claims in the case have a one-year statute of limitations.
According to the lawsuit, Goodson’s estate is seeking damages for wrongful death and the violation of Goodson’s civil rights, alleging the sheriff’s office did not properly train or supervise Meade.
The lawsuit alleges that Meade received significantly more training in firearms use than in any other area, including de-escalation, and that there was an apparent lack of review or supervision of the training. The lawsuit said Meade’s records at the sheriff’s office showed he last received de-escalation training in 2014 and completed the training in under four minutes.
Goodson’s estate also call Meade a “religious zealot” in the lawsuit, saying he derived pleasure from being engaged in physical combat. “Jason Meade finds happiness in exercising force,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also alleges that Goodson’s grandmother, who was inside the home at the time of the shooting, suffered a stroke later that same evening.
Federal probe against Meade ongoing
Within days of Goodson’s death, the FBI became involved and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio announced that it would oversee a joint investigation into the case.
However, the federal investigation has become a separate operation, presumably to pursue any potential civil-rights violations related to the shooting.
“The federal review remains open and ongoing,” Jennifer Thornton, a spokeswoman for the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, said in an email Thursday.
Federal investigators become involved after Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office declined a request from Columbus police for his office’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to probe the case.
Yost said he rejected the request because Columbus police waited until three days after the shooting to seek BCI help.
“We do tough investigations all the time — but from the beginning,” Yost tweeted at the time. “This one belongs to CPD.”
Casey Goodson Jr. death: New details from Meade’s attorney and what Goodson’s family says happened
In a lengthy written statement Thursday, Meade’s attorney provided the first detailed explanation of the shooting, and what led up to it, from his client’s perspective.
Collins wrote that Meade was on his way back to the federal task-force headquarters in his unmarked vehicle when he “observed a driver, later identified as Casey Goodson, with a black handgun with an extended magazine in his right hand hanging above his car’s steering wheel. … As another car approached Mr. Goodson’s vehicle while it was stopped, he aimed the gun at the other driver, tracking that driver with his gun.”
After pursuing Goodson to the Estates Place residence, Collins wrote, Meade saw Goodson “approaching a side door inside an open gate” and “attempting to enter the house with a gun still in his right hand.”
Meade shouted repeatedly for Goodson to show his hands and drop the gun, Collins wrote, but Goodson “turned and looked in Jason’s direction while lifting his right arm back toward Jason, pointing the barrel of the gun in Jason’s direction.”
He and investigators have said that a citizen heard Meade’s commands to Goodson being shouted, but didn’t see the shooting.
Goodson had a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun, and investigators have confirmed that a gun was recovered at the scene, but have not been specific about the location.
Collins told The Dispatch in a text message Thursday, “When my client rolled (Goodson) over, (the gun) was found beneath him.”
Goodson’s family has said that he was carrying Subway sandwiches for family members to the home following a dentist’s appointment and had his keys in the kitchen door when Meade shot him in the back multiple times.
An autopsy determined that Goodson was shot six times in his torso, with five of the bullets entering his back.
“It’s a lie,” Walton said on Thursday at the news conference when asked about claims that Goodson pointed a gun at Meade.
“He was targeted, pursued and shot from behind while walking into his own home,” Walton said. “On that day, Casey was simply trying to get home.”
Goodson’s mother said, “Casey was doing the right thing and was wrongfully executed.”
Three former law enforcement officers facing murder charges
Although criminal charges against officers for on-duty shootings are rare, Meade is the third Franklin County law enforcement officer to be charged with murder in the past three years for such incidents.
Former Columbus police officer Adam Coy was indicted in February in the Dec. 22, 2020, death of 47-year-old Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man who was shot as he emerged from a darkened garage at a Northwest Side home where he was an invited guest.
Former Columbus police Vice Officer Andrew Mitchell was indicted in April 2019 in the Aug. 23, 2018, death of 23-year-old Donna Castleberry, who was shot three times in the backseat of Mitchell’s parked, unmarked police vehicle in Franklinton during what prosecutors described as an undercover prostitution encounter.
Mitchell also is under indictment in U.S. District Court in Columbus on FBI charges that he forced women to engage in sexual conduct with him in exchange for their freedom.
Coy and Mitchell are free on a $1 million bond each while awaiting trial.
Like Meade, both are represented by Collins.
Contributing: Bethany Bruner
Follow John Futty on Twitter: @johnfutty