A grand jury has chosen not to indict a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a man in Buck Creek State Park earlier this year.
Deputy Justin Nawman shot 29-year-old Michael Spencer near the park’s visitor center. The sheriff’s office said Nawman fired shots when Spencer ran at him with a knife.
Clark County Prosecutor Dan Driscoll said the jury took their time and went over several pieces of the puzzle in the case, including the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s report, body camera footage and toxicology screens from Spencer’s autopsy.
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Driscoll said the jury came back with a decision not to indict Nawman, citing self-defense. He said Spencer was about 10 feet away from the deputy when he ran toward him with the knife.
“Unfortunately because of (Spencer’s) actions on that day, he left the deputies with little choice,” Driscoll said. “We hate to see that happen.”
Driscoll said body camera footage was key in this case.
One vantage point from a sheriff’s deputy’s camera shows Spencer covered in blood and holding a knife. In the video, officers on scene try to calm Spencer down. They ask him several times to put down the knife.
“What do you want us to do?,” one officer yells. “What do you want us to do for you?”
People who were at the reservoir at the same time as Spencer said he was acting strange that day.
Melissa Zovak was there with her daughters and previously told the Springfield News-Sun that they walked past Spencer on a bike path.
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She said he was bloody, holding a knife to his neck and making cutting motions to himself.
“I was fearful,” Zovak said. “That’s one reason I kinda kept him in the corner of my eye. I thought he might lunge at my girls.”
Driscoll said as part of their deliberation, the grand jury also reviewed toxicology screens from Spencer’s autopsy that showed he was on drugs.
“Mr. Spencer was found to have a lot of methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death,” he said.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Wednesday that reads in part, ‘The Sheriff’s Office appreciates the work the Grand Jury, BCI and other agencies performed and thanks them for their service.’
The statement goes on to say that the sheriff’s office will be doing their own internal investigation, which is standard anytime one of their deputies fires their gun while on the job.
After the shooting, Nawman was placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure. But the sheriff’s office said in their statement Wednesday that the deputy is back to work.
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