By SAMANTHA HENDRICKSON
Associated Press
/Report For America

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former Ohio sheriff's deputy testified in a murder trial Tuesday that the man he killed lifted a gun to shoot him, despite prosecutors saying the man's gun was found on his kitchen floor with the safety mechanism engaged.

Jason Meade took to the stand to describe the events of the fatal 2020 shooting of Casey Goodson Jr., which was not captured by body camera as Meade was not wearing one at the time. He said that he feared for his life and the lives of those around him when Meade shot the 23-year-old Goodson a total of six times — five times in the back.

Meade, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murder and reckless homicide in the death of Goodson, who was Black. The sheriff’s deputy, who is a pastor at a Baptist church, shot Goodson as he entered his grandmother’s house, police have said. Goodson fell into the house's kitchen, where his gun was found, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say that Goodson was holding a bag of sandwiches in one hand and his keys in the other when he was killed. When Meade testified about the shooting, he said Goodson had brandished a a gun at him from his car, prompting a pursuit. Goodson then failed to respond to commands, Meade said.

He told jurors Goodson had his back to him at first, and he fired at Goodson when he turned to lift a gun toward him.

“I thought he was going to shoot me. I'm thinking, I don't want to die. I didn't want to shoot him,” he said. Meade also said he hoped that Goodson would surrender but felt he did not have a choice in order to stop a “deadly threat.”

On the stand, Meade also addressed previous statements about his law enforcement work, made at a Christian men's conference in his role as a pastor. The recordings received significant backlash, and lawyers for Meade tried to keep the recordings from the jury, but their request was denied.

In the recordings, while speaking to those attending the conference, Meade said he has a “great job” and that he gets to “hunt" people. He also made comments about use of force, including that he's “justified” in “throwing the first punch” because others wish they could punch those people, too.

His comment on hunting people, he said, was an attempt to explain his job in a way that people who didn’t know what he did would understand.

Mead also explained that he often uses lived experience to convey spiritual messages, and that he was connecting use of force to the biblical story of David and Goliath, in which a young boy defeats a giant intending to kill him.

Neither the prosecution nor Goodson’s family have ever disputed that Goodson could have been carrying a gun but note that he also had a license to carry a firearm. Goodson also had a holster around his waist that did not have a strap.

Special prosecutor Gary Shroyer questioned Meade on whether he'd done enough to notify Goodson that he was law enforcement. Meade told Shroyer that the situation was urgent, he did not have time to put on sirens or lights, and that Goodson must have heard Meade because he ran from him.

Shroyer again emphasized that Goodson had AirPods in his ears when he died and pointed to discrepancies in Meade's testimony on “moving quickly” versus actively running from law enforcement. He also noted that Meade had lost sight of Goodson on the way to Goodson's grandmother's home.

Shroyer also questioned Meade on whether, as a reasonable officer, he could have assessed that Goodson was in his own car and going to his own home, especially considering that he was able to open the side door with his keys.

Meade said he did not see how Goodson opened the door or with what hand, but maintained that Goodson's actions “indicated criminal activity.”

Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.