A Clark County Deputy who shot a news photographer twice during a traffic stop said he believes he had to fire his weapon, according to internal investigation documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.
“At the time and given all the circumstances that I was presented with, I don’t think there is anything that I could have done different,” Clark County Deputy Jacob (Jake) Shaw told investigators according to the internal report.
MORE COVERAGE: Deputy apologizes after shooting photographer
The statement included in the Clark County Sheriff’s Office internal investigation is among the first made available to the public from Shaw about the incident. The investigation report indicates Shaw requested additional training prior to the shooting.
The investigation conducted by Clark County Sheriff Sgt. Denise Jones and Deputy Amanda Mitchell was launched in response to Shaw shooting New Carlisle News photojournalist Andy Grimm.
Shaw had pulled over a vehicle on Main Street in New Carlisle on Sept. 4 at around 10 p.m. Grimm had set out to take photos of lightning from an incoming storm when he stopped to take pictures of the traffic stop.
Footage from Shaw’s body camera shows he returned to the vehicle after speaking with the driver of the vehicle and then fired two shots at Grimm without giving Grimm a warning. The footage shows Shaw run over to Grimm and render him aid immediately after the shooting.
Shaw can be heard telling Grimm he thought his camera equipment was a weapon.
In a statement for the internal investigation, Shaw says he didn’t know it was Grimm and he thought the subject had a gun.
Shaw was cleared of all possible charges by a Clark County Grand Jury in March and returned to road patrol late last month following the conclusion of the internal investigation.
As part of the internal investigation, Shaw provided a five and a half page statement on the incident, describing what he saw and why he decided to shoot.
Shaw told deputies that he had pulled over a vehicle for speeding and returned to his cruiser to run the driver’s records and to see if he had any warrants when he noticed a Jeep approaching the traffic stop.
“I looked up to see a Jeep heading in my direction on Main Street,” Shaw said in his statement. “I activated my radar and determined the Jeep was traveling at a speed of 35 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.”
The Jeep continued to catch his attention, he said.
“I could see in my peripheral vision the Jeep had pulled into the parking lot of Studebaker’s Country Restaurant, adjacent to my position on the road. I looked up. The Jeep stopped abruptly in the first parking space. Based on my familiarity with New Carlisle, I knew the restaurant was closed at that hour. Indeed, the parking lot was empty and dark as the parking lot does not have overhead lighting. The jeep was located approximately 75-feet from my position.”
Shaw said he thought it was unusual for a jeep to pull off the road and park in the restaurant at that time of night, he said.
“I observed a white male wearing a white t-shirt exit the vehicle and look at me,” Shaw wrote in the report. “I did not recognize the individual. I believe I did not recognize him because it was nighttime; minimal overhead lighting in the parking lot; distance from my position and perhaps most importantly because the individual in the Jeep, who I would soon learn was Andy Grimm, was not driving the van that I had seen him driving on many prior occasions.”
Shaw said this time he began to pay more attention to the occupant of the Jeep as the man, later identified as Grimm, got out and reached into the back seat.
“He pulled out what I believed to be a long rifle,” Shaw said. “It was an object that was dark, thin and several feet long. He held this object - what I believed to be a rifle - with two hands as someone would hold a long gun. His right hand was holding what I believed to be the rifle with his right elbow at a 90-degree angle. His left arm was extended with his left hand underneath the object supporting its weight.”
Shaw said that his and the life of the driver he pulled over were in danger, according to the report.
“He turned quickly in my direction, continuing to hold the object like a rifle,” Shaw said. “Based upon his actions, I believed that he was aiming a rifle in my direction and that he was going to shoot me. I believed that I was about to be ambushed and shot. My instinct was to exit my vehicle so as to not remain a stationary target. I opened the door of my patrol vehicle fully expecting to see a muzzle flash of a rifle from across the street.”
He said he fired two rounds at the individual and felt he had to do so to protect himself and the driver.
“There was no time to verbally identify myself and issue verbal commands to the individual,” Shaw said. “I believed I needed to act immediately to prevent myself from being killed,”
He said the man he shot began to yell and when he knelt next to him he realized it was Andy Grimm.
“I realized that what I believed to be a rifle was, in fact, his camera tripod,” Shaw said. “I immediately gave Grimm first aid by applying pressure to his wound. I told Grimm that he would be OK. I told him that I thought he had a gun and that he was going to shoot me. Grimm told me that he understood and that he was sorry.”
Shaw told investigators he was well rested the night of the shooting, according to the statement, and was not under any influence during the shooting.
Grimm, who has filed a federal lawsuit against the county and Shaw, told the Springfield News-Sun he wasn’t doing anything wrong before the shooting.
“I drove cautiously and was flashing my high beams at him as I pulled into a well-lit parking lot and parked directly under the street light,” Grimm said.
He also said that he never pointed his tripod at Grimm like it was a weapon.
“That is absolutely untrue,” Grimm said. “As you or your cameraman are aware, there is zero reason to hold a tripod like a rifle.”
Grimm doesn’t think a tripod can be mistaken for a weapon.
“I think it’s fair to say that any reasonable officer had more than enough time to issue a warning,” Grimm said. “Even if he felt it was an ambush, by his own admission he watched my every move from driving down the street to parking to getting out. He had time to assess the situation and he did not.”
Shaw started work with the sheriff’s office as a civilian in 2012. He was hired as a full-time deputy in 2015 to work in the Clark County jail.
In May 2017, he was selected to fill a temporary assignment on road patrol.
The original plan was to train Shaw for two weeks before allowing him to patrol the streets, the internal investigation report shows.
Shaw requested additional training after two weeks of instruction with his field training officer, Deputy Sheila Crews, according to the investigation report.
“Deputy Crews sent an email to Sgt. Underwood or to Lt. White (doesn’t recall which one) voicing a concern and asking to extend Deputy Shaw’s training and one additional week of training was approved.”
Meyer told the Springfield News-Sun previously that as part of Shaw’s return to road patrol, he must undergo 10 weeks of field training. The investigation documents show Shaw was trained for about three to four weeks before beginning his patrol before the shooting.
“Deputy Crews trained Deputy Shaw for three to four weeks, although she stated that it was pre-determined that it would last two to three weeks,” the investigation documents say. “Deputy Crews advised that she did remember completing daily evaluation sheets as prescribed by policy, however she does not know where those sheets went.”
Deputy Crews was assigned as Shaw’s field training officer, according to the investigation documents.
Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett said Shaw was well trained before the incident.
“Deputy Shaw was fully qualified to patrol New Carlisle on September 4, 2017. Prior to receiving his Ohio Peace Officer Certification in 2014, Deputy Shaw served as a military police officer in the Army. Deputy Shaw has attended numerous continuing education courses since his certification. Any allegation that Deputy Shaw was not properly qualified with his firearm is false. Consistent with Ohio law, Deputy Shaw requalified with his firearm in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 calendar years.”
The investigators found Shaw acted properly and did not violate any office policies.
“All testimony indicates that Deputy Jake Shaw was presented with a situation in which he had reasonable belief that there was an immediate life-threatening situation which could cause serious physical harm if not death inflicted upon himself. Not only did Deputy Shaw perceive himself to be under immediate imminent threat but also potentially the life and safety of the subject he had on the traffic stop.”
Shaw followed policy and procedure and was objectively reasonable, the investigation findings say.