Andy Grimm might have little sway over the fate of Deputy Jake Shaw, but the news photographer shot by accident still wants to have his say about it. Grimm wanted to get some stills of a lightning storm in New Carlisle, Ohio, when he saw a deputy conduct a traffic stop on the street. Grimm went to set up his tripod to record the incident, and that’s when things went bad quickly. Shaw thought the tripod and camera was a weapon, and, well ….
A small Ohio news organization says one of its employees has been shot by a sheriff’s deputy who the news outlet says apparently mistook his camera for a weapon.
The New Carlisle News reports photographer Andy Grimm had left the office Monday night to take pictures of lightning when he saw a Clark County sheriff’s deputy performing a traffic stop in New Carlisle, north of Dayton.
Grimm tells the news organization that he decided to take pictures of the traffic stop. He says he got out of his Jeep and started setting up his tripod and camera when he was shot in the side.
The police aren’t talking, at least not yet. Instead, they’re referring the matter to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Attorney General Mike DeWine. Neither of them would comment, but Grimm has — to plead for Shaw’s job and to calm the outrage:
“I was going out to take pictures and I saw the traffic stop and I thought, ‘hey, cool. I’ll get some pictures here.'” He said he pulled into Studebaker’s parking lot in full view of the deputy, got out of his Jeep in full view of the deputy and started setting up his tripod and camera. “I turned around toward the cars and then ‘pop, pop,'”
Andy said the deputy gave him no warning. “I was just doing my job,” he said.
“I know Jake. I like Jake. I don’t want him to lose his job over this.”
There is a tremendous amount of grace involved in this response, especially for someone who might have lost his life if the deputy’s aim had been a little bit better. That alone is worth noting, and hopefully will calm the waters for a rational review of this incident.
However, there are bigger questions than whether Grimm forgives his friend for this error. Law enforcement personnel have to exercise better judgment when it comes to the use of lethal force in situations such as these. A civilian who used lethal force under these circumstances would face years in prison for shooting an unarmed non-threat, and rightfully so. Police officers are expected to assess threats more professionally and to react to them properly. Firing at someone in the dark without confirming them to be an actual threat first could have had deadly consequences, not just for the suspected threat but also for other uninvolved bystanders. Bullets do not drop magically out of the air the precise moment they pass their intended target, after all.
Shaw is blessed to have his friend’s forgiveness, but the question now is at least whether Shaw can be trusted with the responsibilities of the job. The next person might not be as forgiving … or as fortunate to be alive to forgive him.