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Casey Goodson Update: Death At Deputy's Hand Is Ruled A Homicide

The Franklin County Coroner's Office in Ohio cited "multiple gunshot wounds to the torso" as the case of death for Casey Goodson, 23, here in an undated family photo. A sheriff's deputy shot and killed Goodson last week.
Family Photo/Courtesy of Sean Walton via AP
The Franklin County Coroner's Office in Ohio cited "multiple gunshot wounds to the torso" as the case of death for Casey Goodson, 23, here in an undated family photo. A sheriff's deputy shot and killed Goodson last week.

The death of Casey Goodson, a Black man killed Friday by a Franklin County sheriff's deputy in Columbus, Ohio, has been ruled a homicide, according to a statement from Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz.

The preliminary findings come five days after Goodson, 23, was shot under disputed circumstances. Law enforcement officials said a sheriff's deputy saw Goodson driving with a gun, but have not said Goodson was armed when he was shot. Goodson's family says he was shot outside his house.

"Based on findings from the autopsy and medical death investigation, manner of death is homicide," Ortiz's office said in a press release Wednesday morning.

The cause of death remains preliminary as the coroner's office has not yet received medical records or a toxicology report in the case. But the office added, "However, based on the current findings, cause of death is multiple gunshot wounds to the torso."

Goodson's relatives said he was shot three times in the back; the coroner's statement does not describe the bullets' entry point or provide any other details about the man's wounds.

The coroner's homicide ruling does not automatically trigger criminal charges. As the Columbus Division of Police recently said, it is still investigating "whether or not the deputy was legally justified in shooting Goodson."

After that inquiry is complete, police said that "all evidence will be turned over to the Franklin County Prosecutor for presentation to a civilian grand jury."

The Justice Department said Tuesday it is joining the investigation into Goodson's death, saying it will review evidence for any sign that federal civil rights laws were violated.

"Goodson's family has raised multiple objections to the initial account of his death, saying that Goodson was shot while coming back from the dentist," NPR member station WOSU's Paige Pfleger reported. "Family members say he had just unlocked the side door to the house and was carrying Subway sandwiches for his family."

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office said one of its deputies — Jason Meade, a 17-year veteran of the force – is the law enforcement officer who fired his gun at Goodson. At the time of the shooting, Meade was assigned full time to a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force. His team had just finished a search for "violent suspects" when Meade shot Goodson, police investigators said.

"Goodson was not the object of the search, according to police, nor was he wanted by law enforcement," as NPR's Brakkton Booker has reported.

The Columbus Division of Police has said that Meade "reported witnessing a man with a gun. The deputy was investigating the situation, and there are reports of a verbal exchange. The deputy fired at Mr. Casey Goodson, resulting in his death."

The police said a gun was recovered from Goodson; his family issued a statementthrough an attorney saying in part, "Casey was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and Ohio does not prohibit the open carrying of firearms."

There are no body camera recordings of the shooting; police said that deputies with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office aren't issued body-worn cameras. The force also said that no other law enforcement officers witnessed the shooting. The family's attorney said it was witnessed by Goodson's grandmother and two toddlers.

A final autopsy report will likely take around 12 to 14 weeks to complete, Ortiz's office said in the brief statement about the controversial killing.

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Corrected: December 9, 2020 at 9:00 PM PST
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that law enforcement officials said Goodson was waving a gun when he was shot by a sheriff's deputy. Law enforcement officials said the deputy saw Goodson driving with a gun. Officials have not said Goodson was holding a gun when he was later shot by the deputy, which Goodson's family said occurred at the door of his house.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.