COLUMBUS, Ohio — Community leaders say that Black residents are angry and upset after the recent fatal shooting of a Black man and that the next death of one of their own at the hands of law enforcement may push the city over the edge, leaving them to wonder what could happen next.
Black activists and the local chapter of the NAACP demanded more transparency and answers from law enforcement Wednesday about the investigation into the death of the man, Casey Christopher Goodson Jr., 23, who was gunned down nearly a week ago by a Franklin County sheriff's deputy as he entered his grandmother's house.
A string of high-profile killings of Black men by law enforcement has plagued Columbus over the last four years.
"It was a horrific shooting, and a life was lost at the hands of a law enforcement officer," Nana Watson, president of the Columbus chapter of the NAACP, said Wednesday.
Columbus' police department has a long history of being aggressive toward Black people, she said, and the city has reached a tipping point.
"The Black community is up in arms. The community is very volatile now, and we don't want that," Watson said. "We need to get answers."
A spokesperson for the Columbus Division of Police couldn't be reached Wednesday to respond to the complaints.
Goodson's name is now etched in the minds of Black residents, alongside those of Black men who have been shot and killed by Columbus police officers in recent years, including Henry Green, Tyre King, Kareem Ali Nadir Jones and Julius Tate Jr.
"We're tired. It's traumatizing every day to wake up and see somebody that looks like you dying," said activist Maria Holland, 31, a co-founder of the Black Liberation Movement Central Ohio. "I don't feel like justice is being served."
Green, 23, was shot and killed in June 2016 during a confrontation with undercover police officers. Police said he ignored commands by two white officers to drop his gun.
Tyre, 13, was killed in September 2016 while police were responding to a report of an armed robbery. He was alleged to have pulled a BB gun with an attached laser from his waistband when officers tried to take him and another male into custody.
Jones, 30, was killed in July 2017 after officers said they felt threatened and repeatedly ordered him to get on the ground.
Tate, 16, was shot and killed in December 2018 during an undercover sting operation related to a series of armed robberies. Police said he pulled a gun on an undercover police officer.
"I believe oftentimes there is an aggressive approach taken toward Black men," Watson said. "I think oftentimes, if you haven't had implicit bias training and you don't know how to engage with people that don't look like you, then you have some biases, and it can carry over to your work."
Federal prosecutors announced this week that they are reviewing Goodson's death to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated. It will be conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Columbus, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the FBI in Cincinnati and Columbus police.
The circumstances surrounding Goodson's killing last Friday are murky. The Franklin County Coroner's Office ruled his death a homicide Wednesday, acknowledging that he died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Goodson, a former truck driver who had recently turned to retail work, was returning to his grandmother's home, where he lived, from a dentist's appointment when he was shot in the doorway by a Franklin County sheriff's deputy after a verbal exchange.
The deputy, identified as Jason Meade, a 17-year veteran who has been placed on leave during the investigation, was working with a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force investigating violent criminals, Columbus police said.
Authorities said the deputy saw Goodson, a licensed concealed weapon owner who wasn't the subject of the investigation, driving with a gun. After the verbal exchange, the deputy fired at Goodson, according to a sheriff's statement. Police haven't said what happened from the time Goodson was possibly seen with the gun until he parked his car and walked past the front yard to the side entrance of the house.
County sheriff's deputies don't have body cameras, and police said there were no eyewitnesses.
"The problematic part is Goodson was shot walking into his home, not exiting out of the vehicle," said the family's attorney, Sean Walton.
The Columbus NAACP said it wants to know whether Goodson was shot from the front or in his back while unlocking the door to his home.
"We're going to push for answers. We need to do that," Watson said. "It's the correct thing to do."
Neighbors on Estates Place are also trying to piece together what happened.
Columbus resident Hanad Ibrahim, whose father-in-law lives on the block, saw the aftermath of the shooting and said the street was flooded with patrol cars.
"I was shocked. I usually see him walking his dog," Ibrahim, 25, said of Goodson.
Mike Sanders, 60, who lives four houses away from Goodson's grandmother, said that the shooting caught him off guard but that he would reserve judgment until more details are available.
"I don't want to take a side," Sanders said, adding that the killing was unlike anything he had ever seen in his more than 20 years in the neighborhood.
Goodson's death has left its mark not only on the neighborhood, but also on the city and the state.
"Casey Goodson Jr. is yet another young Black man who should be alive today. Our hearts break for another family who has lost a son at the hands of the police," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, tweeted.
Estates Place has slowly returned to normal. Branches on the barren front-yard tree near where Goodson was shot swayed in the gusty wind.
"There are underlying tensions here, especially with the newly constructed and gentrified areas of Columbus. We're making a lot of movement with our infrastructure, and I feel a shift," Holland said. "I feel there's an invisible line with the haves and have-nots. It's the accepted and the others, and the others, unfortunately, fall into the hands of young Black men in our community."