Jury clears Hamilton police officer of any criminal wrongdoing

Teen in fatal shooting fascinated with guns, violence

Hamilton police officer cleared of criminal wrongdoing in fatal shooting.

Notes the 18-year-old had left with friends he had been staying with on South 12th Street in Hamilton stated Keeler “was sorry for what happened, there was no changing his mind, (and) that the male friend could have the AK(-47 rifle) ‘after they pry it from my hands,’ ” Hamilton police Chief Scott Scrimizzi said Thursday during a news conference.

Keeler, of Southern Hills Boulevard, was killed Saturday during a shootout with Hamilton police Officer Chad Stafford at 11th Street and Sipple Avenue. Stafford, who suffered a head wound during the exchange of gun fire, has been cleared by a Butler County grand jury of any criminal wrongdoing in the shootout.

Stafford, 44, responded to 11th Street and Sipple Avenue within 90 seconds of reports that someone was shooting up the neighborhood. Almost immediately, the 14-year veteran officer encountered Keeler, who sprayed a hail of bullets from a civilian-model AK-47 at him.

Stafford took cover behind a nearby vehicle, returned fire and fatally shot Keeler, but not before a bullet grazed the top of his head, wounding him. The officer has since been treated and released from the hospital, is recovering at home from and is on paid administrative leave. Per police department policy, Stafford will be required to see a department psychologist.

“We will give him all the time he needs,” Scrimizzi said.

A Hamilton police investigation into the incident revealed that Keeler was involved with drugs, somewhat fascinated with weapons and had serious mental issues. Police also recovered 200 rounds of ammunition, the AK-47 and a 10 millimeter Glock pistol near Keeler’s body. It was, as Scrimizzi said, “a recipe for disaster.”

“The officer was shot, bleeding and outgunned, yet he moved from behind his cover and fired two rounds from his duty pistol at a distance of 68 feet striking the suspect with both rounds, stopping the threat,” Scrimizzi said. “The events of this past Saturday are both sad and tragic in that we have a young man who is dead and an officer shot and wounded. But we are grateful that there was no additional loss of life or injuries because what we have learned in our investigation is things could have ended much worse.”

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said there is an indication the shooting was a “death-by-police-officer incident.”

“He (Keeler) had it in his mind to take his life through the instrumentality of a police officer,” Gmoser said.

The prosecutor also pointed out that Keeler enjoyed playing the video game “Grand Theft Auto.”

“It is a video game with a great deal of violence, killing and lawless behavior,” Gmoser said.

Gmoser said this incident might assist people with recognizing the tale-tell signs of young people at risk of “going off the edge.”

The prosecutor said it is his policy that all officer-involved shootings be explored thoroughly by a grand jury. A grand jury report released Thursday returned no indictment related to the shootout, clearing Stafford of any criminal responsibility.

“We cannot assume anything with respect to any type of shooting incident,” Gmoser said. “They should be fleshed out without exception by a fresh set of eyes.”

Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Agent Jim Deir, who works out of the Hamilton police offices, said his agency is continuing to track where and who purchased the 10 millimeter Glock in Keeler’s possession.

To legally purchase that particular handgun in Ohio, you must be 21 years old, according to officials. The AK-47 that Keeler used can be legally purchased by those 18 and older in local stores or on the Internet. Deir said there is a possibility federal charges could be filed in connection with the purchase of the handgun.

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.