AG report shares details of officer-involved fatal shooting in Struthers
After months of investigations and interviews on the April 1 Struthers officer-involved fatal shooting of 35-year James Sheets, the Ohio Attorney General has released its investigative documents.
The report was released after a Mahoning County grand jury on Thursday "no billed" the investigation into the shooting. A no-bill means a formal document has been filed with the court that the prosecutor will not be seeking formal charges against the defendant.
The AG documents stated that on April 1, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) was requested by Youngstown Police Department to conduct an independent investigation surrounding an officer-involved shooting that occurred at 914 Salt Spring Road.
Shortly after 5:06 pm, a Struthers officer attempted a traffic stop after receiving information that the driver was under suspension, leading police on a pursuit that ended about 8 minutes later at the intersection of Steel Street and Salt Springs Road after he crashed when police converged on the vehicle.
The shooting incident involved Sheets, from Youngstown, and members of the Struthers Police Department. The Youngstown Police Department was also interviewed as they assisted Struthers in the case but were not involved in the shooting of Sheets.
The report shows that the Struthers officers interviewed in the shooting are Patrolman Tom Schneeman and Capt. Matt Haus.
Officer Schneeman told BCI Agents he heard Haus' police call that the officer's vehicle was struck by a tan-color Chevrolet Malibu and was in pursuit.
Haus struck the suspect’s vehicle on the right rear area, using a 'pit maneuver,' while Schneeman then struck the suspect’s driver’s door, not “allowing him to get out, run on foot.”
Schneeman told BCI Agents that had his service weapon in his right hand and his taser in his left hand, giving several commands, “Show me your hands over and over.”
The officer said the suspect's hand was on the gearshift attempting to move his vehicle when Schneeman deployed his taser, uncertain if it struck Sheets.
"I see his right hand come up and he turns towards me. I yelled gun, gun, and ducked down while in a seated position.
The gun was pointed directly at me. I could see the barrel. I fired 18 times and believed I was stationary at that time,” Schneeman stated.
Haus told BCI investigators that after he initiated the stop with Sheets, " the suspect “ended up putting the vehicle in reverse, accelerated back and started turning around, coming back towards me. He punched it at a high rate of speed, he
was close to my cruiser, that I could reach out and touch his face. I put it out thru the radio, he tried to hit or he hit me.”
Haus said after they had the suspect stopped, he saw Sheets turn towards Schneeman and Haus deployed his taser.
Haus heard Schneeman yelling "Gun, gun, gun, gun, gun. I was looking straight across at Officer Schneeman and he was in direct line and then heard the “gun fire.”
The report listed that Youngstown Police found a gun inside of Sheets's car.
Scientific analysis was performed on two weapons, one from the officer and one a pistol discovered inside the suspect's vehicle. 36 bullet cartridges were found at the scene and examined.
Items listed on the AG report found inside of Sheets' car included ammo boxes, gun magazines with 58 cartridges, a digital scale, and a glass pipe.
The AG report also included items found on the suspect, which included were reported to be methamphetamine and a white powder containing cocaine.