A 911 caller had followed Jones from Hamilton to Morris Road in Fairfield Twp. Officers responded, but Jones fled into a tree line. Before Jones fled, Fairfield Twp. Police Chief Robert Chabali said the suspect displayed a firearm and pointed it at police officers Austin Reed and Mark Bartlett.
“There was no doubt they should have fired at the suspect,” the chief said. “The suspect was holding a firearm at his side, and he also leveled off at them, pointed at them, and they did not use lethal force to counter it.”
According to the Fairfield Twp. use of force policy, lethal force (the policy references it as deadly force) may be used by officers to defend themselves or another person from serious physical injury or death. The policy cites a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that support the use of deadly, or lethal, force: Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor.
Chabali said it was likely the officers would have been terminated following the internal investigation, but “it never got to that.” The chief said Reed and Bartlett’s resignations were voluntary “based on the fact that I think they realized that this job is not necessarily what they want to do.”
Reed, 27, resigned on Oct. 10, the Monday after the incident, and Bartlett, 24, resigned on Oct. 13, five days after the incident. Both officers were hired in February and were still within their one-year probationary period. Chabali said there was a third officer involved, and the chief said that officer “had no issues whatsoever.”
The chief said one of the officers, instead of using lethal force, deployed a Taser, and that afforded Jones the opportunity to flee.
Bartlett wrote in his report there was a nearby resident mowing a lawn, but Chabali said that based on the department’s investigation, they confirmed no one would have been in danger if the officers had fired their service weapons at Jones.
“We lost sight of him, and so we have an individual out in society, potentially able to harm an innocent victim, take someone hostage, or ambush police officers or fight it out with police officers lethally,” Chabali said. “We’re thankful the Hamilton officers were able to engage him and stop this threat.”
Jones emerged on Tara Brooke Court, where he was confronted by two Hamilton police officers. Jones was taken into custody after both officers fired shots at Jones, who later died from his wounds at the hospital. Officers Bryan Bowling, a five-year Hamilton police veteran, and James Leisinger, a two-year Hamilton police veteran, were placed on administrative leave, per Hamilton policy, after the shooting.
Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit called in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate the shooting, which spokeswoman Officer Kristy Collins said is still under investigation. Once BCI’s investigation is complete, Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said he would present the officer-involved shooting to the grand jury, a standing policy of his office regarding any officer-involved shooting within the county.
Chabali said his department’s internal investigation is complete, but he and his staff are providing additional training with officers “ensuring that will not happen again.”