Police arresting people

Two more Columbus of Division of Police officers were arrested for stealing and dealing illicit drugs, the second such arrest over the previous three years.

John Castillo, 31, of Grove City, and Joel Mefford, 34, of London, Ohio, were taken into custody on Thursday by the FBI. Both are alleged to have stolen cocaine from houses suspected of drug trafficking, and Mefford was also accused of stealing a large amount of cocaine from the Columbus police property room. Whether the two were working in tandem was not revealed in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Ohio, press release.

In 2021, two Columbus police narcotics officers assigned to the Division’s cartel unit were arrested by the FBI for dealing cocaine and fentanyl. Both Marco Merino, 44, and John Kotchkoski, 33, pled guilty and are now serving lengthy sentences.

Back then, Cynthia Brown, the founder of De-Escalate Ohio, told us: “Kotchkoski made himself available on the radio to make calls in case Merino might need other ‘law enforcement officers to protect the safe transport of cocaine.’ I bet there are more police officers involved.”

Joel Mefford’s arrest is more troubling due to the fact he wasn’t even a resident of Columbus or one of its suburbs. He’s from London, Ohio, which is roughly 30 minutes west of Columbus, but eons apart in many cultural and political ideological ways.

The Division’s ranks are filled with officers who don’t live in the community they are sworn to protect. Indeed, 3 out of 4 do not live in Columbus. The above picture of a custom made tee-shirt was taken in London, Ohio, in 2021, and designed by an officer who resides in London, as told to the Free Press by the individual wearing it.

In related law enforcement news this week, a coalition of organizations working to better public safety in Ohio led by impacted families revealed their new public-facing landing page with policy demands and forthcoming newsletter. To coincide with the beginning of Black History Month, the Ohio Police Reform Policy Table unveiled four policy pillars to build public safety:

  • Respect for all victims of crimes, including police violence
  • Care for our community
  • Accountability and transparency
  • Training and maintaining our police force

Each pillar has subsequent policy priorities which the coalition will advance through strategic partnerships, collaboration with elected officials, and campaigns. 

The Ohio Police Reform Policy Table is a statewide project led by Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality and OFUPAC. Founding coalition leaders (in alphabetical order) include:

ACLU of Ohio

Brave Technology Co-op

Dayton Anti-Racist Network


Ignite Peace

Justice, Unity, & Social Transformation (JUST 614)

Law Office of Spencer J Cahoon

Ohio Fair Courts Alliance

Ohio Justice & Policy Center

Ohio Women’s Alliance Action Fund

Peoples Justice Project

REACH Responding with Empathy, Access, and Community Healing

River Valley Organizing

This coalition worked throughout 2023 to build out the policy platform housed on the Ohio Police Reform Policy Table website. The group came together in-person to successfully remove the proposed Joint Law Enforcement Training Center in May 2023 from the state budget, demonstrated to support Ta’Kiya Young’s family after she was murdered by Blendon Township police department in August 2023, and then again to commemorate the 2023 National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality on October 22.

Supporters and champions for safe communities have sent hundreds of postcards and over 16,000 letters to members of the Ohio statehouse demanding accountable policing in Ohio. The coalition will provide updates through a new formal mailing list. Supporters can sign up here

Out of Ohio’s 88 counties, 78 are home to families with loved ones killed by police brutality. Last year was the deadliest year on record in the United States for police killings, with 1,323 known murders, an average of three killings by police in the US daily.


Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality (OFUAPB) is a statewide non-profit organization founded by Sabrina Jordan, who lost her son to police brutality in 2017. After the tragic loss of her son, Ms. Jordan began the ongoing work to unite the 1,200+ families in Ohio since 2000 who have lost loved ones to police abuse, creating a connected space for support, healing, and action. OFUAPB was founded to create and provide a space for families to grieve, develop and control their own platform for grief and advocacy, rather than being manipulated by exterior organizations.

Find out more at 

OFUPAC is the 501c4 action fund associated with Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality. Our mission is to uplift and amplify the voices of impacted families to transform the criminal and civil justice landscape in Ohio.

Find out more at