Some 363 days after Columbus, Ohio, man Casey Goodson Jr. was gunned down from behind as the 23-year-old was on the doorstep of his home bearing Subway sandwiches for his family, the former Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy who killed him was charged with murder this past week.
The Dec. 4 2020 killing — many details of which remained obscured in changing accounts and official silence almost from the moment it happened — sparked protests in Columbus after then-Franklin County Deputy SWAT team member Jason Meade put five shots from his rifle into the back of the young Black man.
In the year since the slaying, Goodson’s family and advocates for justice had awaited signs that the now-retired deputy might be subjected to criminal justice.
By Friday, Dec. 3, the day after the charges were announced, Meade, who turned himself in to authorities on Thursday, pleaded not guilty during a video court appearance to two counts of murder and one count of reckless homicide.
He was released from jail Friday on a $250,000 bond.
Last week’s indictment announcement left Goodson’s mother, Tamala Payne, “overwhelmed with joy,” she said.
A 911 call made moments after the shooting to the Columbus Division of Police from Sharon Payne, Goodson’s grandmother, captured how the family learned their loved one had come to harm: “My grandson just got shot in the back when he comes in the house. I don’t know if he’s OK or not ’cause he’s still out there.”
When asked by the dispatcher if anyone saw the shooting, she said, “No. He went to the dentist or somewhere and came home. All I know is there’s a bunch of gunfire. He’s not a bad kid. He doesn’t have a police record. He works. I don’t know what happened.”
Initial reports on the slaying described how Meade, then a 17-year sheriff’s deputy, was in the field that day as part of his work with a U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task force looking for violent offenders.
Goodson was not a target of the task force and did not have any criminal warrants.
The task force had finished its work for the day and come up empty-handed in its search for fugitives when Goodson apparently drove by the parking lot where the law enforcement team was gathered for its wind-down that afternoon.
Officials said in the days after the shooting that Meade claimed he saw Goodson waving a gun as he drove by and the deputy followed him to his home. (The Marshals Service says Meade was not acting on behalf of the task force.) Meade claimed nearly a year ago that he then commanded Goodson to drop his gun and fired only when the young man responded by pointing a gun at Meade.
Goodson’s family says he was carrying only Subway sandwiches for his younger siblings and a face mask and had put the key in the kitchen door lock when he was hit by the gunfire.
There were no witnesses to the shooting, and it was not captured on dash camera or a bodycam, as Franklin County deputies do not carry body cameras.
After the indictment, Meade’s attorney, Mark Collins, released a more detailed account of his client’s version of events in a statement on Thursday.
Collins’ statement said Meade followed Goodson to his grandmother’s neighborhood, believing that he saw him point a gun at another driver. After he parked his car, he put on a tactical vest and identified himself as law enforcement.
With the vest on, he trailed Goodson on foot to Payne’s residence. Meade says Goodson was carrying a gun in his right hand and a plastic bag in his left hand. He said that he again identified himself as a member of law enforcement and ordered Goodson to show him his hands. Instead, the lawyer states that Meade saw him raise his gun.
The deputy “commanded Mr. Goodson to once again ‘drop the gun,’ and when that command was ignored, and while the gun was pointing at Mr. Meade, he, in fear for his life as well as those inside the house, fired his weapon at Mr. Goodson,” the statement details.
The family, as it has all along, emphatically disputes this account. They contend that Goodson, who was licensed to carry a concealed firearm, was not holding a weapon at the time of the shooting. Investigators have claimed a gun was recovered at the scene, but have not made public where they say it was found.
“He was targeted, pursued and shot from behind while walking into his own home,” Goodson’s family’s attorney Sean Walton said at a news conference Thursday. “On that day, Casey was simply trying to get home.”
Tamala Payne said during the news conference, “It’s been a year of sadness, it’s been a year of grief, it’s been a year of pain. But I know that every day of this year, that my family and I wake up and just fight for what’s right.”
In the year since the shooting Meade, who took a disability retirement from the sheriff’s office this past summer, has come under scrutiny for past statements he’s made as an ordained minister about use of force.
He talked about the intersection of his faith with his work from the pulpit to his Rosedale Free Will Baptist Church congregation (recorded in a YouTube video that has since been deleted).
“There are times for righteous release — that’s what I call it — when we have a use of force,” he sermonized.
“Because every now and then, you have to actually use force. We don’t go around looking for it because we don’t have to. Plenty of people out there will give you that opportunity. So we don’t have to be bullies going looking for it. That’s why I say it’s a righteous release.”
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin, after the former deputy from his office was indicted, released a statement urging officers in his department to not rush to judgment. He said 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,” he continued to share. “It’s vital to maintain that trust, which is why I’ve tasked 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.”
Goodson’s mother believes that Deputy Meade did not extend that courtesy to her son. She said that she wants “a conviction and a life sentence” for the man that took her son’s life.
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