Family, friends gather to celebrate Casey Goodson’s 26th birthday

The party for Goodson, who was shot and killed by Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Meade in Dec. 2020, took place simultaneously with a rally in support of Tyre Nichols at the Ohio Statehouse.
Casey Goodson (right) with one of his siblings
Casey Goodson (right) with one of his siblingsCourtesy Tamala Payne

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, LaQuisa Richardson of Ace Community House welcomed attendees to a birthday celebration for the late Casey Goodson Jr., who was shot and killed by former Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Meade in Dec. 2020. Goodson would have turned 26 today (Monday, Jan. 30).

“We have so much going on in our city, so much going on in our world,” said Richardson, speaking to the roughly 40 supporters, friends and family members gathered on the second floor of IMPACT Community Action on the South Side, a number of whom wore T-shirts imprinted with photographs of Goodson and slogans such as “I am Casey Goodson Jr.” 

Richardson went on to share that “some of our comrades are across town,” making reference to a rally being held simultaneously at the Ohio Statehouse in support of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten and killed by police following a January traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee, video footage of which officials released to the public late on Friday. “Different name, same story,” Richardson said.

While acknowledging Nichols' murder, which has sparked outrage nationwide, Richardson wanted to keep the focus on Goodson, and even more specifically on the Columbus community, which has been impacted by a growing number of police killings in recent years, including: Ty’re King, Henry Green, Jaron Thomas, Ma’Khia Bryant, Andre Hill and Donovan Lewis, among others.

“I recognize the George Floyds and the Tyre Nichols and the Jayland Walkers, and it hurts my heart. But we’re fighting right here. Casey’s mom is a few feet away from us, so the question is what can we do right here, right now to make those changes?” said Richardson, who will take part in a community conversation centered on these issues at City of Grace at 7 p.m. today (Monday, Jan. 30).

While current events initially lent a muted tone to the gathering, Goodson’s mother, Tamala Payne, focused on the family centered life lived by her son in the years before his death, as she has every day since he was killed, posting daily pictures and videos to social media as a means of capturing the many facets of Goodson’s personality, refusing to let law enforcement shape its own narrative around him.

“I believe the way Casey’s story has been told and shown, people know Casey, they feel Casey,” said Payne, who also expressed solidarity with the Nichols family. “It is so unfortunate what these police do. My prayers are with Tyre’s family, because I know what they’re going through.”

The effects of Payne’s ongoing campaign rippled throughout the birthday celebration, attended by multiple community members who never met Goodson but who were drawn in support due to the way his life resonated with them.

“I did not know Casey, but I feel like I do from the pictures, from the videos,” said Richardson, pausing to acknowledge Goodson’s young siblings, who were nearby tossing around a miniature, light-up football. “This is his little brother right here. And his sister. So, when I think of him, I picture him on the grill, at family reunions, at family parties. … Casey was [Payne’s] firstborn, and he was the family’s rock. Jason Meade didn’t just take a life; he destroyed a family.”

Meade shot and killed Goodson on Dec. 4, 2020, claiming that he initially entered into pursuit after he saw Goodson wave a gun while driving. (Goodson, a licensed gun owner, was not the target of any investigation and has no criminal background.) 

An autopsy released in March 2021 showed that Meade shot Goodson six times in the torso, with five of the bullets entering from his back. In September, the family and attorney Sean Walton released a photograph of Goodson’s bloodied Apple AirPods recovered from the scene, which they said bolstered their assertion that Goodson was unaware of Meade’s presence before he was shot while entering the family’s Northland home. There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, and no video footage of the exchange between the two exists.

Meade, who left the sheriff’s department on disability retirement on July 2, 2021, was indicted in December 2021 on two counts of murder and one count of reckless homicide in the death of Goodson. According to Walton, Meade’s criminal trial is set to begin in June, though the start date has already been continued multiple times. A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family against Franklin County in December 2021 has met with similar delays.

“Initially the family was hopeful that they wouldn’t even have to file a civil lawsuit, and that the county would be willing to address their role [in Goodson’s death] and allow the family to get some kind of justice,” said Walton of the civil suit, which focuses on Franklin County's role in training and supervising Meade, as well as patterns and practices in place that allowed him to continue on the job.

Walton has repeatedly called Meade’s work background into question, recently highlighting a 2008 letter sent to Meade by former Franklin County Sheriff James Karnea. In the letter, dated Feb. 20, Karnea writes that he is suspending Meade for one day for violating regulations related to the use of force, for submitting an inaccurate report, and for withholding information. The letter, obtained by Walton in discovery and shared with Matter, documents unrelated conflicts between Meade and two different inmates.

“Clearly, as you can see, Meade has an issue with using force and not reporting it, or using force and lying about it, and that was a pattern that dated back 12 years before Casey was even murdered,” Walton said. “That’s why, moving forward, the civil process is just as important as the criminal process, because Jason Meade is not one bad apple where if you convict him, all is well. Because somehow, despite his record, he was allowed on the SWAT team, and he was allowed to work with the U.S. Marshalls, so clearly their vetting process is problematic and puts people at risk. For as much as this is about Casey, it’s also about Franklin County not accepting responsibility in a way that protects the interests of the public as a whole.”

Richardson referenced similar issues with Meade’s documented work history, along with past public statements made by the former deputy (“I hunt people,” Meade once said of his job), questioning why he even had the authority to carry a firearm. “He never even should have been on the job that day,” she said, contrasting the deputy's rocky history with the details about Goodson shared by family and friends in the wake of his death.

“For me, as the mother of a Black son, we teach our kids to go to school, to do the right thing. If you want to carry a firearm, go get a license. If you want to drive trucks, go get a license. You want to have a good life? Stay out of trouble. Work hard,” Richardson said. “And Casey did all of that. And Meade still took his life.”

“And that’s really who he was,” Walton said of Goodson. “If there was a different story to be told about Casey, it would have been told by now. ... I think for me, personally, that’s what gives this case so much urgency. Because if we can’t get justice for Casey, and if we can’t hold the system accountable in this situation, then I’m worried other people don’t stand a chance.”

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