In one of the more bizarre stories to hit national news this week, an Ohio sheriff's deputy is under investigation for shooting a local reporter who innocently set up a camera and tripod on a public sidewalk to document a routine traffic stop. What's more is the shooting took place in a small town where "everyone knows everybody" and the police officer and victim were actually friends.
Ohio based New Carlisle News reports that its own photographer was shot in the incident which occurred Monday night:
Andy Grimm was shot by a Clark County deputy Monday evening. Andy had left the office around 10:00 p.m. to take pictures of lightning. There was a traffic stop on Main Street near Studebaker’s Restaurant, but Andy was not the subject of the stop. He had his camera and tripod in his hands and Deputy Jake Shaw apparently mistook it for a weapon and fired, striking Andy in the side. He was rushed to Miami Valley Hospital for surgery. He is expected to recover from his wounds.
Body camera video released by the Clark County Sheriff's Office shows Deputy Jake Shaw shoot Grimm. The shooting sequence begins at 3:20 in as the officer is checking info inside the police car on speeder he pulls over.
In an unexpected twist, the wounded cameraman is now pleading for the officer to keep his job. Grimm told local reporters, "I know Jake. I like Jake. I don't want him to lose his job over this," in reference to the sheriff's deputy that shot him.
The victim's father, Dale Grimm, told The Washington Post that his son "got out, parked under a light in plain view of the deputy, with a press pass around his neck. He was setting up his camera, and he heard pops." Sheriff's deputy Jake Shaw reportedly gave no warning before firing.
The case has been turned over to the the Ohio state attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Division. While it's entirely possible that there's much more here than what's being reported - for example, there could have been some kind of personal dispute between the friends - the strange incident is part of a growing list of "shoot first, ask questions later" incidents which display an increasingly militarized and trigger-happy mentality by local and state police.
As we reported last week in The Alarming Militarization of American Police, it is deeply disturbing that the federal government currently seeks to pass on military hardware to local and state authorities which continue to display lack of judgement as well as over the top tactics while dealing with routine local civilian matters. Local police forces should never operate like the Pentagon, but it appears we're headed down precisely that path:
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order clearing the way for local police in America to receive military gear such as grenade launchers, high-calibre weapons, and armored vehicles. Trump and the DOJ have just reversed former President Barack Obama’s restrictions that allows local police departments to receive surplus military equipment.
...Let’s not kid ourselves, America by the day is turning into a police state where power through police force is the objective. The citizens of the police state may experience restrictions on social or financial mobility, or even on their freedom to express or communicate alternative political views.
No, the sheriff's deputy who possibly mistook a simple camera and tripod on a small-town street for a mounted assault rifle should not keep his job - he is an absolute danger to society. But could we imagine if such police made regular use of mounted 50-caliber machine guns and grenade launchers?