The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation failed to gather conclusive evidence as to who fired the weapon, and Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack chose not to bring the case to a grand jury
Parking garage

Franklin County (Ohio) Commissioners’ Parking Garage at 34 E Fulton St. The location of Rayshawn Meeks’ death on 3/7/22. (Photo: Edie Driskill)

Video footage of Rayshawn Meeks' shooting

“Obviously, this is a terrible situation that I inadvertently caused. It’s on me. Because it was my weapon, I’ve thought about this for many nights. Trust me. I consider myself a professional and I’m not pleased about this occurring whatsoever,” Clinton Township Detective Terrance Phillips told investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) during an interview two months after the death of Rayshawn Meeks. 

Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack did not take the case to a grand jury. In his office’s letter closing the case on January 29, 2023, Jeff Blake, Deputy Chief Counsel of the Criminal Special Units wrote:

After a thorough review of the above Officer Involved Critical Incident, the office of the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney has concluded that the officers involved violated no laws in the performance of their official duties on March 7, 2022.

This letter shall serve to notify all involved that this office is officially closing our inquiry into their actions. No Grand jury action is warranted under the investigation as concluded.

Tyack also sent out a press release stating that both video evidence and witness testimony support the Franklin County Coroner's report which stated that the manner of death was a suicide. But the only evidence provided by BCI to support this cause of death are the statements from two officers who also could have caused Meeks' death.

The fight in the parking garage

Meeks, 35, a father of a ten-year-old daughter, died on March 19, 2022, from a gunshot wound to his head from Phillips' weapon on March 7, 2022, at 9:40 a.m., on the seventh floor of the Franklin County Commissioners’ Garage in downtown Columbus.  The video above shows the entire event.

He and two friends, Sheena Doumbouya and Yves Touré, were heading to a DUI hearing for Touré. As they parked near Phillips, who was in the garage on a smoke break, Meeks suddenly and inexplicably attacked Doumbouya, possibly with a kitchen knife he may have taken from her apartment that morning. Doumbouya then ran for help from Phillips, while Touré physically fought off Meeks. 

Franklin County Sheriff’s (FCSO) Deputy Sergeant Victor Dinardo, arriving for work in the building attached to the garage, joined Phillips after the fight between Meeks and Touré had ended and Meeks was resisting arrest. Dinardo told BCI Special Agents John Butterworth and Matt Collins that during a struggle to subdue him, Meeks got control of Phillips' handgun, which was pointing toward Dinardo just before everyone heard a pop and saw that Meeks was bleeding from his head. 

No one else at the scene, including three other FCSO Deputies and the two friends of Meeks, reported seeing the firearm before it discharged. FCSO Deputy Declan Feery reported seeing Phillips take the gun from Meeks’ hand and holster it after Meeks was shot. 

Phillips suggested a couple of scenarios to investigators that might have allowed Meeks to take his gun but he wasn't sure. Phillips said, “I cannot give you that defining moment when the gun became unsecured or how and when he [Meeks] gained retention of it.”  

Because Phillips was assigned to a plainclothes investigative unit with FCSO, he wore his firearm, a personally owned Staccato 2011 handgun valued at over $3000, in a plastic holster without a strap on his right hip, covered by his hoodie.

  Detective Terrance Phillips displays his empty holster on 3/7/22 shortly after Rayshawn Meeks was shot with his gun. (Source: Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation)

It is becoming more common for law enforcement officers to carry their personal firearms.

Who pulled the trigger?

The BCI investigative documents prove that the single bullet that entered Meeks' right temple came from Phillips' gun but the investigation provided no forensic evidence that Meeks ever held the weapon or pulled the trigger.  No one near the shooting, including the victim, was tested for gunshot residue on their hands. The gun was not checked for Meeks' fingerprints. The DNA analysis could not conclude that DNA from Meeks was present on the six areas of the gun that were swabbed. 

  Bureau of Criminal Investigation crime scene photograph of the casing from the single bullet that shot Rayshawn Meeks 3/7/22. (Photo: BCI)

An attempt to confirm our understanding of the DNA evidence with Forensic Analyst Marjorie Kulp with the Ohio Attorney General's Office resulted in a response from Press Secretary Steve Irwin explaining that BCI (a division of the Attorney General’s Office) does not provide interpretation of its records. 

The Franklin County Coroner’s Office report lists the cause of Meeks’ death as suicide but its autopsy report offered no additional evidence that Meeks shot himself. It only noted that officers on the scene said that he had. 

Reported police involved interaction with decedent subsequently acquiring a service weapon and discharging it himself

The only evidence the BCI investigation cited to prove that Meeks shot himself are the statements of Phillips and Dinardo. Dinardo's character has previously been called into question due to his arrest for lying to law enforcement to excuse his arrest for assault on a woman in a bar fight.

  FCSO Sgt. Victor Dinardo kneels over injured Rashawn Meeks and calls for a medic while other officers walk around and a car drives through the crime scene. (Photo: FC Commissioners’ Garage security footage)Dinardo's misrepresented call for a medic

Feery was the only person in uniform at the scene and therefore had a radio. He told investigators that immediately after the gunshot Dinardo told him to call in the incident to request a medic. 

Feery radioed in the request. This was confirmed by uniformed FCSO Deputy Dion Nicodemus who arrived seconds after the gunshot and asked if he should call it in. Nicodemus told investigators that Feery told him that medics were already on their way.

At this time Meeks was alive and bleeding on the garage floor. Dinardo was kneeling near him while on his phone. The other three officers/deputies present during the shooting were walking around. Phillips stated that he called his superior at Clinton Township Police Department when he couldn’t get through to the sheriff’s dispatchers. 

No one was yet offering first aid to Meeks.

Doumbouya stated that the female who also ran to help her seemed to be with the cops because she had a radio. This deputy told investigators that they were all trying to get through to the radio room on their phones because no one had a radio, but the phone calls weren't connecting. 

A minute and a half after the shot and Dinardo's urgent directive to Feery to radio for a medic, Dinardo's cellphone call to the radio room went through. 

"This is Dinardo. We’re in the parking garage. We got a guy shot and it's down on the 7th floor. We need a medic." he said.

After he was connected to Columbus Fire, the dispatcher asked if it was self-inflicted or what happened. "Yes, he got the deputy's gun and shot himself," Dinardo replied.

  BCI crime scene photo of the first aid kit used to help Rayshawn Meeks. (Photo: BCI)

The dispatcher asked if they felt safe to put something on the wound. Dinardo replied, "Yeah, we're trying."

The video from the scene shows that they weren't performing first aid at that time.  After the call, Dinardo sent Phillips to retrieve his first aid kit. 

  [sic] Screenshot from WSYX news 3/8/22 (Source: WSYX)

The following day, WSYX-Channel 6 aired the audio of Dinardo's call to the radio room but labeled it as a 911 call from an unidentified man in the garage. They muted the moments when Dinardo identified himself.  The story implied that an impartial bystander had witnessed the shooting and that it was likely an intentional suicide. 

WSYX noted that a call to BCI resulted in the standard response that they cannot share information in an ongoing investigation.  

There was no retraction or clarification from either the FCSO or WSYX after the story ran without identifying the caller as the ranking officer at the scene and one of several officers who were being investigated by BCI.

FCSO interference in the investigation

The afternoon of the shooting FCSO Chief Deputy Rick Minerd held a press conference. He directed all questions to BCI, knowing that they didn’t answer any questions about ongoing investigations.  

When asked if the deputy’s gun was used in the altercation, Minerd said, “Um, still yet to be determined. There was at least, obviously, one gun, and I’m told one shot was fired. Whose gun that was? We’ll sort that out.”

As the calls arrived at Columbus Fire, Columbus Police (CPD) were also dispatched to the scene as standard protocol.  Sheriff Dallas Baldwin decided to request that BCI conduct the investigation instead of CPD.  BCI was contacted by FCSO Sgt. Billy Duffer at 10:08 a.m. The BCI investigators and crime scene staff arrived at approximately 11:49 a.m. 

As the BCI investigators took over the investigation, they began collecting standard evidence needed in officer-involved shootings.  This normally includes the personnel files of the officers involved. Baldwin reportedly initially agreed to send the records to BCI but they never arrived.  After more requests, the investigators were eventually told by FCSO staff that they would need to get a subpoena for the records that are normally available through a public records request.

Clinton Township, however, offered no resistance to the standard request. The personnel records for Phillips were provided within two weeks of the incident.  The printed packet of over 100 pages spanning the last twenty-five years included his military service, numerous commendations, and updates on the personal firearms that he was carrying while working.

No departmental charges

In cases where an officer might be criminally charged, the agencies they work for wait to bring any departmental charges until after the prosecutor chooses not to indict them or in the case of an indictment, until after the trial has ended.  To date, none of the officers involved has faced any departmental charges.

All three of the officers/deputies assigned to the FCSO special investigation unit have been reassigned to normal operations within their agencies.


  Example of a redacted report from the BCI investigation into Rayshawn Meeks’ shooting. (Source: BCI)Redacted transparency and accountability

Attorney General Dave Yost has taken a remarkable step toward transparency and accountability in officer-involved shootings by providing redacted BCI investigation records on a public website.  He has even written a book, available for free, detailing the standards he would like to see in these investigations.

Tyack refers to the video evidence in the case in his press release. The public evidence available to review on BCI’s website includes a report from the person who validated the video. But the video is not provided. The only video listed is the interview of Touré. (The video attached to this story was received directly from Franklin County through a record request. It may or may not be the video referred to by Tyack.)

The redacted information leaves huge gaps in accountability, however. For example, in this case, the plainclothes officers at the scene were assigned to a special investigation unit so constant redaction of their names in the audio and written documents makes the investigation very difficult to follow and easy to misinterpret.  

The victims in this case were not afforded the same protection. Their identities, addresses, and phone numbers were not redacted. 

  A fun moment for a daddy, Rayshawn Meeks, and his daughter captured on Facebook. (Photo: Rayshawn Meeks)A life-changing minute

A lot happened in the minute and a half between when Doumbouya parked her car and Phillips’ bullet entered Meeks’ head. It was loud, chaotic, and bloody–emotionally and physically difficult for everyone involved. 

Lives were changed forever. Meeks died of his wound. His daughter will grow up without her father. His parents and siblings will mourn his early passing.  His friends will live with the trauma and scars that his sudden irrational behavior caused.  The off-duty officers who responded to their cries for help and may have saved them from more injury are now adjusting to job reassignments that have interrupted their career paths. 

The community is getting a closer look at how a BCI investigation into an officer-involved fatality can be very complicated and manipulated by the local law enforcement agency that asks for their services.  

In Meeks’ case, the Sheriff’s office told the media and the Coroner that Meeks shot himself.  The Coroner listed the manner of death as Suicide based on the deputies’ statement.  The BCI investigators reported to the County Prosecutor that the Coroner ruled his death a Suicide.  The County Prosecutor determined that the officers broke no laws.

BCI did not offer the prosecutor proof of this conclusion.  Tyack’s office reviewed the incomplete investigation and did not ask a grand jury to review the evidence or the logic.