While protests over the police shooting of Ohio concealed carry holder Casey Goodson, Jr. were peacefully held in Columbus this past weekend, there was at least one demonstration that I believe would have been better off not taking place at all.
On Sunday, five demonstrators entered Rosedale Baptist Church, where Deputy Jason Meade also serves as pastor. Meade is the Franklin County deputy who shot and killed Goodson, and claims that Goodson waved a gun at him and other officers as he drove by them on the afternoon of December 4. Meade, who was in plainclothes, got in his vehicle and pursued Goodson just a short distance to Goodson’s home. The deputy says he ordered Goodson to drop his weapon after he got out of his car holding a gun, then fired multiple shots at the young man when he refused to do so.
Goodson’s family, meanwhile, says that he wasn’t holding a gun when he was shot and killed. Instead, they say he had a bag with Subway sandwiches and a face mask in one hand, and was putting his keys into the door of the home when he was shot in the back. Meade, though his attorneys, has denied mistaking the bag for a gun and claims that Goodson pointed a gun at him before he fired in self-defense.
For the first half-hour of the church service, the protesters stood silently in the church sanctuary, where Associate Pastor Paul Moore was filling in for Meade. At one point, however, the demonstrators called out that Meade is a murderer.
“We love you, let me tell you that first, but we can’t have you bad mouthing our pastor,” Moore said.
Then the situation escalated.
“Your pastor is a murderer,” a demonstrator responded.
A church member spoke up to defend Meade. “There’s two side to every story.”
A demonstrator replied, “There’s not two sides to every story. What’s the other side to the story?”
Oh, c’mon. I just explained the two sides to this story, and the protesters who showed up at Rosedale Baptist Church know darn well that there’s a dispute between the deputy’s version of events and those of the Goodson family.
It’s the facts in this case that are hard to come by, not competing versions of what took place on the afternoon of December 4. By all accounts, Casey Goodson was a responsible gun owner and a caring individual. Pointing a gun at officers, even (or especially) those in plainclothes seems out of character for him, according to friends and family.
Similarly, those who’ve known Jason Meade for years say they can’t imagine him using his gun in the absence of a true threat to his life or the lives of others.
“I have the right to support my pastor because I know his character. Jason Meade has been only shown the bad things on the TV of whatever because they’re trying to make him a villain. He is an Iraq War veteran, a proud member of the U.S. Marines.”
Based on his character, Moore said he does not believe Meade would have pulled the trigger unless there was a threat to his life. “We absolutely support him at this time,” Moore said. “We’re trying a man in the court of public opinion instead of letting the evidence speak for itself because nobody really knows the evidence.”
If you go back and read through our extensive coverage of the Casey Goodson case, you won’t find any accusations of murder made against Meade or any attempts to assassinate his character, any more than you’ll find efforts to discredit Goodson or his family. There’s simply no reason for that, and it would be unfair to both men to try to portray one or the other as monsters or mindless villains.
At the same time, there are legitimate questions about why Goodson was shot; including where Goodson’s gun was found, where in the torso he was shot, and why the Columbus police didn’t immediately ask the state’s Criminal Bureau of Investigation to lead the investigation into the shooting instead of waiting for three days.
None of the parishioners at Rosedale Baptist Church have those answers, so I’m unsure why the protesters decided to target the church on Sunday. The group eventually left after police were called, and were given a warning that a return visit to the church would lead to a citation for criminal trespass.
Those truly seeking justice for Casey Goodson won’t find it at the church pastored by Deputy Meade, though they may find comfort and solace in prayer. Instead, the demonstrators and protesters should keep their focus on the mayor of Columbus and those in a position to shed some light on the events surrounding Goodson’s death. The demands should be for openness, transparency, and a just outcome in the investigation. Taking the protest to the pews of the church where Meade can often be found at the pulpit may satisfy an emotional need, but it doesn’t bring us any closer to the answers we deserve.