State Investigators Send Fatal Police Shooting Cases To Prosecutor
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced updates in three high-profile fatal law enforcement shootings from the past year and included a message to state and local leaders who weigh-in on police shootings.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation handed over its investigations into two fatal police shootings to the Franklin County Prosecutor.
One case looks into the death of Andrew Teague who, according to law enforcement, was shot during an exchange of gunfire following a pursuit involving the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and Columbus Police on March 5.
The second case is the police shooting death of 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant outside her home in Columbus on April 21. Police were responding to a 911 call at the time. Body camera video shows an altercation where it appears Bryant is holding a knife. An officer is heard shouting "Get down" before firing his gun.
BCI was called to investigate both cases. Besides listing the amount of items analyzed in the lab and the number of witnesses interviewed, the attorney general's office does not provide too much detail into the investigations.
Yost says that's because the investigation is ongoing and it could hurt the integrity of a potential jury pool. However, Yost says it is important to also be transparent about the next steps in the process.
"We, in fact, are on top of this. We are diligent and complete, but we don't want to compromise the integrity of the work or the legal process by speaking about details that are not within our purview to discuss," Yost says.
Yost also noted that initial responses to police shootings by politicians can "taint the jury pool."
"With all respect to my elected colleagues, the day it happens, you don't know what happened. Your best service to the community is to calm the waters, not roil them up," Yost says.
The investigations will now be reviewed by Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack, a Democrat elected to the office in November.
The Ohio Attorney General has referred the officer involved shooting deaths of Ma’Khia Bryant &Andrew Teague to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office. The matters will be presented to a Grand Jury for review. The Ma’Khia Bryant matter is being assigned to Special Prosecutors /1— Prosecutor G. Gary Tyack (@FCProsTyack) July 7, 2021
The Ohio Attorney General's Office also announced a grand jury decided not to indict Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority police officer James Griffith who shot and killed 19-year-old Arthur Keith in November.
Investigators say Keith pointed a loaded gun at Griffiths, that's when Keith turned around and Griffiths shot him in the back.
Anthony Pierson, special counsel for the AG's Office, says a grand jury reviewed the case and decided against charges.
"The case was not indicted. None of the officers were indicted for any criminal conduct," Pierson says.
Pierson noted that Griffiths was the only person to see Keith with a gun in his hand, but added that the evidence is consistent with the account such as the gun being found near Keith's body with his DNA on it.
Yost is calling on lawmakers to pass a bill that requires independent investigations into police shootings.