Photos of cops and a penny

The Free Press recently spoke with several drug addicted community members near the sprawling Wedgewood Village apartment community not far from Westgate on Columbus’ west side. Within our community you can score a bag of “fenty” or illicit fentanyl for $10, they told us. Ten dollars is the price of death in Columbus and beyond.

Now comes the gut-punch revelation: the people sworn to protect us were the ones (allegedly) pumping massive amounts of illicit fentanyl into the community. Earlier this week, the FBI arrested two Columbus police narcotics officers assigned to the Division’s cartel unit – Marco Merino, 44, and John Kotchkoski, 33.

This past summer, Merino dealt roughly 7 kilograms of fentanyl into Columbus, which was first given to him by Kotchkoski – this according to U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Ohio. Also this summer and spring, Merino is alleged to have helped deal 27 kilograms of cocaine into the community.

Keep in mind that a kilogram is 2.2 pounds, and illicit fentanyl, a super potent opioid, is often made into powder and mixed with other drugs, such heroin, cocaine and crack, often done so without the user or addict knowing.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states just two milligrams of illicit fentanyl – the size of two grains of salt (pictured above) – can be deadly for most people. Coincidentally and tragically, Franklin County recorded 580 drug overdose deaths in 2020, the highest number for any county in the state.

The past year and a half has further exposed dysfunction within areas or units of the Columbus Division of Police (CPD): their excessive response to the George Floyd protests; the police shooting deaths of Casey Goodson, Andre Hill and Ma’Khia Bryant, and its underhanded effort to undermine Lt. Melissa McFadden.

Before all this, there was the arrest of CPD VICE squad officer Andrew Mitchell for the 2018 killing of Donna Castleberry and sex crimes against Sullivant Avenue prostitutes addicted to drugs. This same VICE squad also violated the civil rights of Stormy Daniels. And long before these incidents, a Black Columbus police officer was tricked into showing up at a local cemetery only to be greeted by his fellow white officers wearing KKK garb.

In the past 18 months central Ohio has had a surge in violent crime, mostly within our urban neighborhoods and committed by young people, many who are marginalized and attracted to the allure of gangs and the easy money to be made by selling $10 bags of “fenty.”

The police-state apologists at Channel 6 (WSYX) and the hardcore conservatives on 610 AM have gone on a feeding frenzy over the crime surge, putting all blame on our apparent undiscipline youth and Black Lives Matter supporters, while heaping praise on our “victimized” police who have been handcuffed by the policies of Mayor Andrew Ginther and Councilmember Shannon Hardin.

What Channel 6 and 610 AM refuse to acknowledge is how nuanced crime can be. The perps are not always young people from urban neighborhoods. And there’s this: What influence does the killings of Goodson, Hill and Bryant have on our young people? What about police who are secretly dealing huge amounts of drugs that kill?

“I was talking to younger Black youth and they are under the impression that if cops can kill and get away with murders, why can’t they?” says Cynthia Brown, the founder of De-Escalate Ohio. “That is the mindset. Cops are getting away with murders, then we can too.Something to think about, that they are following the playbook from CPD.”  

Another prominent local activist says Columbus police have been sending a message of “confusion, mistrust and disrespect” for far too long. 

“The message for children is one of confusion because we teach them to ‘obey’ the law and that cops are the ‘good guys,’ however more and more we are seeing actions that say the opposite,” says Adrienne Hood whose son, Henry Green, was shot and killed by CPD undercover cops in 2016. “Because there has been little to no accountability, especially to white officers, there becomes a mindset that everyone is above the law.”

Because police, politicians and our courts seemingly have a guileful gameplan in place to deceptively protect bad cops, some members of the community believe it’s not just the police who are bad actors, but it’s the community leadership as a whole allowing cops to literally get away with murder.

This “gameplan” further instills resentment and bitterness within our young people, who then act out their own anger and unlawfulness upon the community.

Case-in-point is the shooting of Casey Goodwin Jr. by Franklin County Sherrif deputy Jason Meade, who apparently left the department on his own. True, the US Department of Justice and the FBI are investigating, but why hasn’t Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin acted?

What about Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack? The Columbus Division of Police?

“I strongly believe Jason Meade needs to be arrested immediately,” said Brown.

“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,’” says Brown citing media reports. “I bet there are more police officers involved.”

Brown also asks: how many folks did Kotchkoski and Merino arrest? “Throw out the charges” for those people, she suggests.