Cincinnati Police have just fatally shot an unarmed man.
Police say they shot killed Paul Gaston, 37, after he “failed to comply” with their commands, and the police saw an airsoft BB-gun that the man had on his person.
Ohio is an “Open Carry” state. That means that the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio State Constitution recognizes the right to carry a firearm – even without a license – if that firearm is clearly observable.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said that the officers fired nine shots at Gaston because they believed his BB-gun was real. This was much the same justification that Beavercreek, Ohio police gave for shooting John Crawford in a Walmart pet food aisle, and the justification the Cleveland police gave for shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Police say that officers opened fire after Gaston refused to lie flat on the ground and raised up. Isaac described the pistol as “a very realistic-looking firearm,” but that completely misses the point that even if it was real, people in Ohio are legally allowed to carry real firearms.
In fact, prosecutors in Ohio have sent police memos to remind them that they have absolutely no legal right to even demand identification from someone they see who is armed.
“Based on what we’ve been able to determine, our officers responded appropriately and according to their training,” Isaac said, ignoring Ohio law.
“They initially gave him commands to go to his knees which he initially complied,” Isaac said. “They also gave him additional commands to lie flat on the ground. The individual begins to go to the ground, then continues to rise up and retrieves a firearm from his waistband.”
The incident is currently under investigation, but the police are standing with the officers who pulled the trigger.
“We always regret the loss of life, no matter what the circumstances. So we want to extend our prayers to the family of the suspect. It’s always sad to see a life lost,” Mayor John Cranley said at a press conference Thursday.
The officers who fired on Gaston have been identified by Isaac as Zachary Sterbling, Eric Kohler and Scott McManis.
Each are on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
Local sources have confirmed that the BB-gun was not in Gaston’s hand when he was shot. The police narrative is nevertheless claiming that the officers “feared for their lives.”