The mayor of Columbus, Ohio, criticized a U.S. Marshal on Friday for providing an “inappropriate, uninformed” statement about the death of 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr.
Soon after Goodson was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy last Friday, U.S. Marshal Peter Tobin made multiple claims that have been disputed by Goodson’s family and have not been repeated by authorities investigating the shooting. He has since said his comments were “premature.”
In the aftermath of the December 4 shooting, Tobin told reporters on the scene that the victim “was seen driving down the street waving a gun” before he was confronted by the deputy, who was later identified as Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Meade.
Marshals said at least one person told investigators that they heard a deputy demand he drop a gun and that the deputy fired after he refused, according to CBS affiliate WBNS-TV. “My prediction is that it was a justified shooting,” Tobin said before noting that the deputy would be thoroughly investigated before he was cleared.
“U.S. Marshal Pete Tobin said that it appeared the shooting was justified,” Mayor Andrew Ginther wrote on Twitter. “He was wrong to make a statement, and his words were inappropriate, uninformed and damaged the public’s trust in the investigation.”
Hours after facing criticism from the mayor, Tobin released a statement saying his comments were “premature.”
“I previously provided commentary after arriving at the scene of the incident and made statements based on insufficient information that I received prior to the beginning of the official investigation into the shooting incident,” Tobin said in a statement. “It was premature for me to provide any opinion, conclusion, or other information about the facts of the incident.”
The Columbus Division of Police, which has been tasked with investigating the shooting, released its own set of facts in a statement on Sunday. Police said there were “reports of a verbal exchange” before Meade shot Goodson, who was not the person being sought by the task force. Police also said they recovered a gun from Goodson, but did not say he had been waving a gun before he was killed.
Police said they have not identified any eyewitnesses and the shooting was not captured on body camera footage.
Columbus police have said that Meade was working on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force when the shooting occurred. But Tobin contradicted that claim in his Friday statement, writing that “U.S. Marshals task force operations had concluded, and the officer was acting on his own and in his independent authority as a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy within his home jurisdiction when he encountered Mr. Goodson, and throughout the subsequent incident leading to Mr. Goodson’s death.”
Goodson’s family tells a different story. According to family attorney Sean Walton, Goodson was returning home from a dentist appointment with a bag of Subway sandwiches for his family when he was shot on his grandmother’s doorstep. Walton said Goodson fell into the home in front of his grandmother and two toddlers.
A preliminary autopsy report released earlier this week ruled Goodson’s death a homicide, and attributed his death to “multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.” Meade has been placed on administrative duty for the duration of the investigation.
In a Thursday statement, Meade’s attorneys said Goodson “pointed his gun” at Meade, adding, “There has been confirmation that our client gave verbal commands for Mr. Goodson to drop the gun.”
Walton told CBS News the family did not see a gun at the scene. But he noted that Goodson is a gun owner with the correct license to carry a firearm and that Ohio is an open-carry state.
“We don’t know if he had a gun on him, unfortunately, because we don’t have answers at this point about what happened that led Jason Meade to choose to take Casey’s life that day,” Walton said. “But, you know, if he did have a gun on him, it would not be a surprise because he had every right to have a gun on him that day. And that in itself is not a crime at all.”
The Department of Justice is also reviewing the case to determine if Goodson’s civil rights have been violated. Protests are planned in Ohio on Friday and Saturday.
Mayor Ginther encouraged faith in the investigations in his Friday statement. “The Columbus Division of Police, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI are committed to following the evidence, getting to the truth and providing answers to Mr. Goodson’s family and the community,” he wrote.
Pat Milton contributed reporting.
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