Monroe police officers who shot and killed a man in December said Wednesday that they would file a federal false death claim, according to their attorney, after the man announced Wednesday that he would not be charged.
Dustin Booth, 34, who was killed during a traffic stop near New Garver Road and Lebanon Street on February 11, called 911 to report that his wife was suffering from a mental health problem.
Prosecutors and family counsel agree that Booth was involved in a series of psychological events. They said Booth had several contacts with police in the month before the shooting.
Lawyer Konrad Kircher, who represents the family, argued that Booth knew the police about what was happening and that he was armed. Instead of finding a way to help him, he said the police decided to start a violent confrontation after Booth devised a plan with a friend to get him out of his home.
Butler said the county prosecutor’s office said the booth was armed and refused to stop as police raised their hands. A police dog tried and failed to stop him.
Then an officer confronted him and Booth and that officer both came to the ground. When the two of them got back on their feet, Booth grabbed a gun and showed it to officers, the prosecutor said. Authorities opened fire.
The use of deadly force was declared “just and appropriate” by the office.
Trial and grand jury
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation was brought in to lead the investigation into what happened. It was released on Wednesday that the evidence collected during that trial has been submitted to the Grand Jury.
However, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which oversees the BCI, said Wednesday that its investigation was still ongoing and not complete. It is unclear whether the BCI shared any preliminary results with the prosecutor’s office.
The Inquirer sent multiple messages to the Gmoser office on Wednesday and Thursday. No reply was received until 12.30pm on Thursday.
Kircher said that if the prosecutor’s office had taken the case to the grand jury without a BCI inquiry, it would have been “a terrible mistake and a direct example of bias.”
“The grand jury result was not fair,” Kircher said. “The family is now seeking justice in federal court.”
Kircher said the Booth family was not surprised by the Grand Jury result because of conflicts of interest in such a situation.
“There is an inherent bias in setting up a county prosecutor grand jury to consider charges against police officers who work with the prosecutor’s office on a daily basis,” he said.
He said no one in the family or friend who drove Booth out of the house was asked to testify before the grand jury. He said only family members knew through media reports that the grand jury process was complete.
“We did not receive courtesy from the prosecutor’s office or from Monroe PD,” Kircher said.
He said the family did not know what evidence was presented to the grand jury or what charges the jury should consider. In Ohio, all grand jurors are held in secret.
‘A Psychotic Break’
According to a statement released by Kircher and family in February, Booth has no prior criminal record, has coached several youth sports leagues, and worked in the same job for 13 years.
Booth had two sons, ages 12 and 10, and had been married for more than 11 years, Kircher wrote. He said that he was a hard worker who supported his family.
“In late January, Dustin had a psychotic break,” he said.
Kircher said his wife had asked him to help Booth repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the shooting, but on several occasions the police refused to detain him because they felt he was not a threat to himself or others.
Kircher said Booth once joined the Behavioral Health Department for treatment, but was mistakenly discharged because he was still in a coma.
“Why is it so hard to get help for Dustin?” Kircher asked. “Why did the police plan to arrest and kill him knowing he was suffering from a mental illness?”
Several days before the shooting
On the day of the shooting, Booth’s wife told the 911 operator that Booth was experiencing a mental health crisis. Booth said she was a danger to herself and others.
Monroe police officers responded to Booth’s residence and found him when he arrived at his neighborhood, and then tried to engage with him, but he went inside his home.
Police said officers were outside his home and were trying to contact him within the next few hours.
While Booth was inside his home, police said he had a gun and appeared to be very anxious. During the 911 call, Booth’s wife told passersby that he did not believe he was using his gun, and that he had a hidden carry license.
Prosecutors described what happened in the moments leading up to the shooting:
Booth eventually set off with a friend in a vehicle. The driver is communicating with police and trying to help keep the booth away from his home. The friend informed authorities that Booth had weapons.
The police ordered the friend to pull over and he did. At that point, Booth got out of the vehicle and started walking away from the police with a .45 caliber weapon loaded in a holster on his shoulder.
Prosecutors said Booth left with his hands in the air when police told him to stop.
A police dog was instructed to “interrupt” the booth, but was unsuccessful. One of the officers then “physically confronted” Booth and the other four officers on the scene “met.”
“Both the facing officer and Mr. Booth landed on the ground and while Mr. Booth was standing with his pistol in his hand, he pointed it at five Monroe police officers, all of whom immediately fired their service weapons. Attack,” prosecutors said. “The Monroe officer sent a K9 unit to stop him, but it did not work. The officers confronted him and Booth ended up on the field with one of them.”
Kircher criticized the police for planning to evict Booth from his home. Authorities learned that he started the violence by sending the dog after the booth when he had committed no crime and that he was armed.
Most police officers said Booth knew and at least one went to high school with him. Kircher explained that there are many other resources available to the police other than creating a plan for this traffic stop.
While a press release from the prosecutor’s office said that Booth’s friend had taken on his responsibility to mediate, Kircher did not agree.
“We have text messages and witnesses, which proves that it was the police who initiated the plan for the exclusive traffic stop,” he said.