ROSEDALE, Ohio — Rare is the law enforcement officer accused of an unjustified shooting whose accusers can point to even a single public statement made by the officer advocating misconduct. But that's what supporters of Casey Goodson Jr. believe they have in a recorded sermon delivered by his killer, Jason Meade, the Franklin County sheriff's deputy and Baptist pastor in this no-stoplight town 30 miles west of Columbus.
A recording of Meade’s remarks, delivered at a 2018 convention of the Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptists, has brought religion to the forefront of a controversial police killing with opposing interpretations of the Gospel squaring off on Sunday mornings here in central Ohio. During those remarks, the SWAT officer described the violence in the line of duty as a “righteous release.” “I work for the sheriff’s office. … I hunt people — it’s a great job, I love it,” Meade told those in attendance. “I worked this job 14 years, you know I ain’t never been hit clean in the face one time? It’s a fact. It ain’t ’cause I’m so good. … You know why? I learned long ago I gotta throw the first punch. And I learned long ago why I’m justified in throwing the first punch. Don’t look up here like, ‘Oh, police brutality.’ People I hit you wish you could hit, trust me.” An Ohio deputy was seeking a fugitive. Then he killed an unrelated Black man outside his grandmother’s house. Advocates for Goodson have seized on the recording, which local media first circulated earlier this month, as evidence of Meade’s unfitness, describing his views as morally reprehensible interpretations of the Bible and a likely indicator that he prejudged Goodson on Dec. 4 when Meade shot him to death. “This is a man who was called to protect and serve who’s talking like that,” says City of Grace Church Pastor Michael Young, who has counseled members of Goodson’s family in the days since his death. “He’s using the platform of the pulpit to teach and preach things that are contrary to scripture.” Said U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio’s 3rd Congressional District, who has appeared at protests on behalf of Goodson: “That’s very different from my religion. Can you equate ‘hit first’ with ‘shoot first’? I don’t know. But the fact that he’s boasting about that kind of mindset is very troubling.”