Podcast • Opinion
“Broken Doors,” Episode 1
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sheriff’s deputy is charged with murder in killing of Casey Goodson Jr. outside grandmother’s house

Tamala Payne, center, the mother of Casey Goodson Jr., at a protest march in Columbus, Ohio, last December. (Doral Chenoweth/Columbus Dispatch/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

A former Ohio sheriff’s deputy who shot Casey Goodson Jr. six times in Columbus was charged on Thursday with murder almost one year to the day since the Black man’s death.

Jason Meade, a 17-year veteran of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted on two charges of murder and one count of reckless homicide. Meade, who is White, shot Goodson, 23, in a fatal incident on Dec. 4, 2020, that involved no body-camera or dashboard footage. Goodson’s relatives say he was entering his grandmother’s home carrying Subway sandwiches when Meade repeatedly shot him as the deputy was looking for an unrelated fugitive. The deputy’s attorney has argued that Goodson pointed a gun at the officer.

The killing sparked racial justice protests throughout Ohio and calls for police accountability in a case that critics say has been marred by contradictory accounts and a lack of transparency. Peter Tobin, the U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, initially said the shooting by Meade was “justified” because Goodson refused to drop the alleged weapon. Tobin eventually retracted his comments, saying the remarks were made based on “insufficient information.”

If convicted, Meade, 44, faces 15 years to life in prison, according to state law. Tamala Payne, Goodson’s mother, welcomed the indictment, saying at a news conference that her son was killed by “a man filled with hate.”

“Casey was doing the right thing, and he was wrongly executed,” said Payne, wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with her son’s face. Meade’s “truths are being revealed,” she said. “That’s what we’re here for today — for the truth.”

Sean Walton, the attorney for Goodson’s family, echoed her sentiments, saying their ultimate goal is a conviction. The case remains under criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office, with assistance from the Justice Department.

“There is powerful symbolism with this happening one year out,” he said at the news conference. “No matter how much time passes, the truth will prevail.”

A Black man’s fatal shooting by the police exposes Ohio congregations’ bitterly opposing interpretations of faith and justice

Mark Collins, Meade’s attorney, told The Washington Post that Meade, who retired from the force over the summer, planned to enter a plea of not guilty Friday at an initial hearing. Collins said he was confident a judge will recognize Meade’s “subjective belief that his life was immediately in danger.”

“It’s a situation where we believe that based on his training and experience, and the totality of the situation, this was a reasonable use of force,” Collins said. “Jason was a little disappointed with the indictment, but he’s up to the task of the trial and showing the community that he had a reasonable response.”

Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin addressed Meade’s indictment Thursday, saying in a statement that “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,” he said, adding, “As I’ve said from the very beginning, I pray for everyone involved in this tragedy.”

In the early afternoon of Dec. 4, 2020, Goodson had just returned from the dentist carrying Subway sandwiches and was unlocking the door to enter his grandmother’s house in northeast Columbus, according to relatives and friends.

An Ohio deputy was seeking a fugitive. Then he killed an unrelated Black man outside his grandmother’s house.

Meade, who was working with a U.S. Marshals Service task force, was finishing up an unsuccessful search for a fugitive in the area, Tobin said, when he spotted Goodson, who was not the subject of the search. Tobin told reporters last year that Goodson allegedly waved a gun at Meade while he was driving by.

When Goodson left his car, Meade demanded that he drop his handgun, a command that was heard by at least one witness, Tobin said. When Goodson did not comply, the deputy fired, Tobin said. Goodson was transported to OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, where he died.

Relatives said Goodson had a sandwich, not a gun, in his hand when he was fatally shot. A gun was recovered at the scene, but officials have not provided further details. Goodson’s family said that if the 23-year-old had been carrying a gun, he had a license to carry the firearm.

Demonstrators protesting Goodson’s killing raised Subway sandwiches above their hands in front of the Ohio Statehouse, in a symbolic gesture to the memory of a man whose life, relatives and supporters say, ended with unjust violence. Those protests were amplified weeks later when a White police officer in Columbus fatally shot Andre Hill, a 47-year-old Black man who was holding a cellphone. Adam Coy, who was fired from the force, has pleaded not guilty, with a trial expected to start in 2022.

Fatal shooting of Casey Goodson reignites scrutiny of police accountability

Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz said in March that Goodson had been shot six times — five times in the back and once in the buttocks. She determined his cause of death to be “gunshot wounds of the torso,” according to the coroner’s report, and the manner of death was ruled to be homicide.

In June, Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack appointed two outside prosecutors, Gary S. Shroyer and H. Tim Merkle, to investigate the case. They were brought in because Tyack’s office is the legal counsel to the sheriff’s office, meaning the prosecutor’s office anticipates having to defend the county in the case.

Meade, who was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, retired in July because of a physical disability, said Collins, Meade’s attorney. Baldwin, the sheriff, had previously said the coroner’s report did not “provide all of the facts needed,” adding that he wanted to wait until the criminal investigation was complete before he took any disciplinary action against Meade, WSYX reported.

Collins told The Post that it is unclear when the trial could begin, speculating it could be anywhere from three months to two years from now. The attorney said he spent the morning with his client, saying Meade understood an indictment was likely.

“He knew that this day was coming,” he said. “We are going to pursue this case vigorously.”

Walton said Goodson’s family demands greater police accountability to help prevent future fatal incidents involving police and “innocent people across the country.”

“I won’t say this is justice, because we all know that justice is Casey being here. Casey’s death, and that accountability, will lead to justice for others,” Walton said at a news conference. “Today is a day about accountability, and this is what this family has asked for since Day 1.”

Payne, Goodson’s mother, acknowledged how difficult it can be to indict an officer on murder charges. Admittedly overwhelmed, she uttered three words to reporters before stepping aside: “We got him.”

Robert Klemko, Andrea Salcedo, Jasmine Hilton and Abigail Hauslohner contributed to this report.