A journalist for a local Ohio paper, New Carlisle News, was shot by a Clark County Sheriff's deputy on Monday night after the officer confused Andy Grimm's camera and tripod for a firearm.
While the newspaper photographer knows Deputy Jake Shaw and told the New Carlisle News that he does not want to see him fired, the incident does place law enforcement training and protocol in the spotlight.
According to the paper, Grimm had left the office at around 10 p.m. to take pictures of lightning, but then spotted a traffic stop and pulled over to take some shots of the scene.
"I was going out to take pictures and I saw the traffic stop and I thought, 'Hey, cool. I'll get some pictures here,'" he explained. "I turned around toward the cars and then 'pop, pop.'"
Apparently, Shaw had seen Grimm setting up his camera and tripod and mistook the gear for a gun. Without demanding the journalist put up his hands or drop what he was holding, the deputy fired, one bullet hitting Grimm in the chest and the other possibly grazing his shoulder, reported the New York Daily News. Realizing his mistake, Shaw bolted to Grimm's side, and the journalist remembers him repeating over and over, "I thought it was a gun."
"I know Jake. I like Jake," Grimm told reporters.
He said that although he was angry at first, he doesn't want to see the deputy punished for an honest mistake.
The Washington Post reported that the incident is currently under investigation by the state attorney general's Bureau of Criminal Division, and Shaw's side of the story currently remains unknown. Grimm, recovering in the hospital, told the NY Daily News that he has been evaluating the sequence of events leading up to this shooting and is still unsure of what he did that made the deputy open fire.
"Until I hear his side, I guess I won’t know what I did wrong," he said.
"He probably didn’t know what it was,” Dale Grimm, Andy Grimm's father and publisher of the New Carlisle News, told The Washington Post. “I don’t want to second guess the deputy because they have to make split-second decisions. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong.”
Still, when guns are involved, "wrong" can be fatal. Andy Grimm is lucky to be alive, as many others have lost their lives because of an officer's alleged mistake. Furthermore, given that Grimm knows Shaw and that the newspaper has a solid, long-standing relationship with the Clark County Sheriff's Office, it goes without saying that this incident raises serious questions and concerns about training and proper procedure.
It was late at night, which made recognizing people and objects difficult, but why was Shaw's first instinct to reach for his gun? As Grimm stated, law enforcement officers do indeed need to make split-second decisions, but they need to be trained to make these decisions in a way that minimizes the potential for an unnecessary fatality. America has seen in tragedy after tragedy that the first solution far too many officers turn to is a gun.
Banner and thumbnail credit: PublicDomainPictures.net user Paul Brennan