Columbus Police get away with murder…again
Police in courtroom

Bringing back memories of the 1992 Rodney King trial, thirty years later almost to the day, a jury in Ohio’s federal court failed to convict the Columbus police officers guilty of 23-year-old Henry Green’s 2016 murder. In fact it was the second time in a month a mostly all-white jury refused to find Columbus police liable in the death of an alleged suspect, as was the case for former Vice cop Andrew Mitchell when he was on trial for killing Donna Dalton.

News reports about the April 26 verdict reveal much too brief and outrageously misleading accounts of the incident that led to Green’s death.

On Spectrum News, a reporter discussed the recent trial and lauded its verdict, lamenting the suffering of poor brave police officers in the city who have to confront such street violence. What’s more, those in attendance this week believe an overwhelming police presence within the federal courtroom possibly intimidated jurors.

“Every day there were officers. [Jennifer] Knight was there. The executives of the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] were there. Plainclothes and uniformed officers were all present, every day,” Adrienne Hood, the mother of Henry Green, told the Free Press. “The jurors I feel who would have been objective to the defense were struck quickly and the pool wasn't that great. I certainly want to look into how and why the juries are not more diverse. There's no way these jury pools should only be coming up with two to three minority jurors.”

After the verdict Ms. Hood was able to confront the officers who killed her son.

“As they came out of the courtroom, I told the officers and their legal team, ‘God will take care of them all, the police and their protectors.’ That’s exactly what I told them,” she said.

Facts in the case suggest Green was killed in an unnecessary police-provoked shoot-out.

Here are the facts left out:

Henry Green was the victim.

Columbus Police officers Zachary Rosen and Jason Bare initiated the attack.

As previously reported in the Columbus Free Press:

"When Rosen and Bare encountered Green walking home in his South Linden neighborhood, they were driving an unmarked SUV rental car with Florida plates.

It did not have an installed dashcam. 

They were not in uniform nor were they wearing body-worn cameras." 

The officers did not identify themselves nor display their badges as they claimed they did, witnesses stated.

Henry Green reacted by pulling out his gun. An exchange of gunfire ensued.

The Linden neighborhood was shot up during this encounter, this writer witnessing bullet holes in a nearby porch. It is a miracle that no other innocent community members were killed or injured during the unprovoked attack.

The officers were in the area to provide surveillance during the City’s “Summer Safety Initiative.”

Programs like the Summer Safety Initiative were adopted in cities all over the nation a decade ago in hopes of tamping down crime in urban neighborhoods. This was a common practice – white policemen in plainclothes unknown to the neighborhood, jumping out on young black men.

That’s why the program had the nickname “jump out boys.”

Columbus Mayor Ginther dropped the program due to community protest in 2017.

This recent wrongful death lawsuit brought by Adrienne Hood, Green’s mother, was preceded by a similar one in 2020 that ended in a mistrial. At that first civil trial, the three men and five women on the jury claimed they could not reach a consensus. 

As the Columbus Free Press reported:

"The 2020 case debated the sequence of events during the final seconds of the encounter. Testimony from the defense’s own expert witness seemed to prove the plaintiff’s case by saying the deadly shot could not have entered Green’s shoulder during the time he was shooting at the officers if he had been positioned in the manner the officers both described during their testimony. 

Green would have been kneeling on the ground as witnesses described, to be able to receive at least two of the gunshot wounds he suffered, including the shot that entered the top of his shoulder and traveled to his heart, taking his life. 

The plaintiff also implied that the investigation of the case was mishandled by the Columbus Police Department and the coroner’s office when the initial detective report listed Green as the 'suspect' and the officers as the 'victims.' The initial autopsy report failed to list two bullet wounds to Green’s back and placed the shot that killed him on the wrong shoulder. 

Two jurors left the courtroom in tears.   

The following morning the only black juror explained to the judge that she and other jurors felt pressured by some of the jurors. She insisted that she was not going to change her vote." 

A mistrial was declared.

The media had reported that “…a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found officers Zachary Rosen and Jason Bare were not immune from civil liability because they continued firing shots after Henry Green was no longer a threat. The ruling found a jury could ‘reasonably conclude’ that the officers’ use of force in this context was unreasonable.”

After killing Henry Green, Zachary Rosen was terminated when he was caught on cell phone video kicking a prone handcuffed suspect in the head. He was later reinstated to the police force.

About the April 26 verdict, Hood’s attorney Sean Walton stated in part, “…we will continue the fight to expose the truth of this tragedy and the lengths the city of Columbus has gone to in order to defend the same officer that they previously fired for excessive force shortly after this incident.”

In 2001 in Cincinnati, after many police killings of black men and simmering tensions, civil unrest led to an economic boycott of the city. Media reported that the boycott resulted in “an estimated $10 million in cancelled conventions and entertainers who called off appearances in Cincinnati.”

Then there was a “…Collaborate Agreement among the ACLU, the Cincinnati Black United Front, the city of Cincinnati and the Fraternal Order of Police which required police to adopt community-oriented policing. A federal monitor oversaw compliance with the agreement for six years and there is general agreement that police-community relations have been much better – not perfect, but better – in the intervening years,” according to WVXU news.

The City of Columbus and Columbus Division of Police claim to be implementing community policing practices with new Police Chief Elaine Bryant now taking the lead.

A September 2021 City of Columbus press release stated: “The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accepted the City of Columbus’ invitation to review the Columbus Division of Police and provide assistance through its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office. This is the first time in the city’s history that the DOJ has been involved with the city under its COPS Office.” 

Along with new procedures, however, accountability for past police misconduct does not appear to be in the program.

Walton also noted that “…the people of this city should not have to fight their own leaders who continue to use qualified immunity as a sword to defend bad officers.”

There is a movement to end qualified immunity in Ohio, spearheaded by Cynthia Brown.

The Columbus Free Press reported:

"Brown is seeking roughly 1,000 signatures needed by the Ohio Attorney General to approve ballot language for a 2022 initiative she is proposing to end qualified immunity for Columbus and Ohio law enforcement. If the language is accepted, Brown knows she will need a small army to gather the 400,000-plus signatures to get approval for a statewide vote.

Disheartening was how some state level and City of Columbus office holders talked tough during the summer of 2020 about ending qualified immunity, which they could do themselves, but as usual so found their promises were empty. 

Brown has taken it upon herself to end qualified immunity, her passion since her nephew Kareem Ali Nadir Jones was shot and killed by Columbus police in 2017. He was harassed for no good reason and ordered to get on the ground. He was then tragically shot in the face, neck, and in the back while on the ground by two white officers. Both are still with the Division.

'The ballot initiative is going to end qualified immunity for all government workers,' said Brown who is director for the De-Escalate Ohio Now! Heartbeatmovement. 'We are asking them to clarify the true meaning of qualified immunity. That’s the only way we are ever going to get accountability. I have come to the conclusion that you can train them all you want, but if they are going to kill in a split second you are going to get the same result if you don’t try to de-escalate the situation first.'”