Special prosecutors appointed in case of CHL-holder Casey Goodson's death

The Franklin County, Ohio, Prosecuting Attorney's office announced last week it filed the necessary documents to appoint two special prosecutors to assist in its investigation and prosecution involving the fatal shooting of Casey Goodson, Jr.

Goodson, a 23-year-old Ohio concealed handgun license-holder, was shot and killed in December by a Franklin County sheriff's deputy in Columbus, Ohio. His family says he was shot as he was entering his home after returning from the dentist and Subway. An autopsy report has confirmed he was shot five times in the back and once in his side.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

[Franklin County prosecutor Gary] Tyack has filed court documents appointing attorneys H. Tim Merkle and Gary S. Shroyer to "assist with the investigation and prosecution of matters involving the shooting death of Casey Goodson Jr., other cases involving law-enforcement use of force and other public integrity issues."

Merkle is an attorney with Hallern & Associates in Westerville. Shroyer practices on South High Street in Columbus. Both men previously served as senior prosecutors under former Franklin County Prosecutor Michael Miller.

The appointments won't become official until approved by the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, which typically is a routine step in the process, and the execution of contracts, according to the prosecutor's office.

Tyack determined that appointing special prosecutors was appropriate because his office "serves as legal counsel for the sheriff's office and anticipates defending the county" and the sheriff's office in civil matters relating to Goodson's death, he said in a news release.

Kayla Merchant, a spokesperson for Tyack, told reporters that their appointment also does not mean that a decision has been made about whether the Goodson case will be pursued in state or federal court.

Goodson was shot on December 4 as he attempted to enter his residence by a deputy who had just finished working with the U.S. Marshals Service fugtitive task force on an unsuccessful search. A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals immediately claimed that the shooting was justified, before any evidence was in. He later admitted that statement was "premature" and "based on insufficient information.

A lack of eye witnesses and the fact that the Franklin Co. sheriff's department do not have body cameras has complicated the investigation.

Initial reports had indicated that only the deputy who shot Casey was present at the moment of the shooting. That may be the case, but according a New York Times interview with a neighbor of Goodson's, others were almost immediately present as well, and they were wearing plain cloths and were not identifiable to him as law enforcement officers. The deputy's attorney also revealed that he was driving an unmarked vehicle.

As I wrote on December 9, "Most will agree that it is best to withhold judgment until all the facts come in. But I hope that all concealed handgun license-holders will agree that this situation is very concerning."

Furthermore, as I told Casey Roth from WOSU (NPR Columbus) on December 16, the Second Amendment community is very pro-law enforcement. We realize that the law enforcement officers are trying to keep us safe – that’s why they exist. This is why some are hesitant to speak into these situations too soon, because we don’t have all the information.

However, it is not making a judgment call to ask questions, and I believe there ARE questions about this case that all law-abiding gun owners should want to have answered.

That is why I continue to encourage the Second Amendment rights community to join the call for the fair and impartial investigation that both Casey and the deputy deserve.

Chad D. Baus served as Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary from 2013-2019, and continues to serve on the Board of Directors. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website, and is also an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

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