Federal authorities charged three suspects accused of involvement in the fatal shooting of Dayton police Detective Jorge Del Rio with new counts that carry punishments of up to life in prison and the death penalty.
“This is an extremely serious crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dominick S. Gerace said Friday.
The additional charges against 39-year-old shooting suspect Nathan Goddard are intentionally killing a law enforcement officer aiding a federal investigation and causing death using a firearm during a crime of violence or drug trafficking.
Goddard is accused of shooting the 55-year-old detective twice in the face while a DEA task force he was on served a search warrant on a suspected drug house in northwest Dayton.
Del Rio died Thursday, three days after the shooting. His organs were surgically removed to be donated to help others.
Amended criminal complaints filed Friday morning also added new charges against two others accused of taking part in the drug conspiracy: Cahke Cortner, 39, and Lionel Combs III, 40.
They were charged with causing death through use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime or crime of violence, which is punishable by up to life behind bars and the death penalty, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
At a detention hearing and initial appearance Friday afternoon, attorneys for Cortner and Combs argued that their clients had minor criminal records, just happened to be at the residence at the time of the incident and did not play a role in the shooting.
“He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” attorney Dennis Lieberman told the court after asking the judge to allow his client, Cortner, to be released, possibly on electronic home monitoring.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sharon Ovington ordered all three defendants be kept in detention without bond.
Goddard, Cortner and Combs have been charged with “death eligible” crimes, but federal authorities will decide later whether to pursue the death penalty, said Vipal Patel, first assistant U.S. attorney, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Patel said all three defendants are accused of being part of a serious drug conspiracy, and all three are being charged for Del Rio’s death.
The charges against Goddard accuses him of actually shooting Del Rio, while the other two defendants are being charged under legal principles known as “felony murder,” Patel said.
“Because they are involved in the conspiracy, crimes committed by members of that conspiracy that are in furtherance of the conspiracy and that are reasonably foreseeable to other members of the conspiracy are attributable as if every member committed that crime,” Patel said.
The courtroom was packed with more than 50 people, including family members of the defendants, some of whom used tissues to wiped away tears as they listened to the proceedings.
Federal authorities filed an amended criminal complaint and affidavit Friday morning against the three men, a day after Del Rio died at Grandview Medical Center.
Goddard originally was charged with assaulting a federal law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl and 500 or more grams of cocaine and marijuana.
The assault offense carried a punishment of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the drug offense had a maximum penalty carrying a minimum of 10 years in prison and a $10 million fine.
Both additional charges, which allege Goddard caused Del Rio’s death, carry potential penalties of life in prison or execution.
Cortner and Combs originally were charged with conspiring to distribute drugs and narcotics, but now they also face a charge of causing death through use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime or crime of violence. The new charges are punishable up to life in prison and the death penalty.
Cortner is not accused of firing his weapon in the criminal complaint and affidavit and he has a “spotless” record, except for a few speeding tickets.
The charging documents indicate that Goddard was the person who opened fire on Del Rio and also indicate Goddard alone admitted to pulling the trigger, Lieberman said.
He said his client had a gun in his possession during the raid but he is a lawful CCW owner and his gun was not used or fired and he did not commit a crime.
Combs’ attorney argued that the records did not indicate his client had a firearm and he just happened to be there.
Del Rio was shot while descending the stairs of a home at 1454 Ruskin Road in northwest Dayton. Authorities allege Goddard shot him twice in the face, and officials say they arrested four individuals in the basement.
Authorities say they recovered more than 13 kilos of suspected cocaine and fentanyl, firearms, cash and large amounts of marijuana from the home, which they say was Comb’s residence.
Federal authorities said Dayton police officers and DEA agents announced themselves before making entry into the home.
Goddard later told investigators he was in the basement, grabbed his gun when he heard a loud noise upstairs and opened fire on people descending his stairs, a criminal complaint states. Goddard claimed he thought he was being robbed, the complaint states.
As they left the courtroom and filed out into the hall, multiple people who were in the audience of Friday’s hearing got into a yelling match. One woman yelled, “I’m allowed to cry. … My kid has to go through this.”
Visitors declined to comment.
Del Rio was the longest-serving Dayton Police Department officer to be killed in the line of duty, and he worked as an undercover detective for more than 25 years, according to the Dayton Police History Foundation Inc.
A GoFundMe page was started on Thursday for the Jorge Del Rio Memorial Fund, which set a goal of raising $75,000 for the officer’s family. In less than 24 hours, people contributed more than $33,400.