Investigation of fatal officer-involved shooting in Liberty Twp. will go to grand jury

The investigation of an officer-involved fatal shooting in Liberty Twp. earlier this week is nearing completion and will be presented to a Butler County grand jury for review, according to officials.

A deputy shot and killed Junius Thomas after a several-hour standoff at the Lakota Pointe Townhomes following a response to a domestic report. The sheriff’s office said Thomas raised a weapon in a doorway, and a deputy fired.

Deputies were called at 5:16 p.m. Jan. 11 to a domestic violence report in the 6800 block of Yoakum Court in the Lakota Pointe Townhomes, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. Thomas had kicked in the door, and the female resident called 911, officials said.

The woman who made the 911 call fled. Thomas was armed and “extremely agitated” when deputies arrived, the sheriff’s office said. Deputies, who were briefly inside the residence but unable to take Thomas into custody, called for the SWAT team after exiting. Contact continued with Thomas into the night until there was about 90 minutes without communication.

At 11:24 p.m., the SWAT team used an armored vehicle to open the door, hoping to use a robot to check on Thomas. But Thomas closed the door, and when SWAT members again used the armored vehicle to open the door, Thomas “appeared in the doorway and raised his gun” toward the team members, the sheriff’s office said.

That’s when a deputy shot Thomas, 31, and he died at the scene. The deputy, who has not yet been identified, is an eight-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, according to a news release. The deputy has been placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation, according to Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer.

On Friday, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said the case will get a grand jury review, as do all officer-involved shootings in Butler County.

“I have been in touch with the sheriff regarding a briefing of the incident. I also received some information from the county coroner,” Gmoser said. “I will tell you in all cases, no matter how obvious the justification may be, all go to the grand jury. And in all cases I request the agencies involved where the shooting occurred to have BCI (Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation) do an independent investigation. I ask that in all cases.”

The prosecutor said the request for BCI to review officer-involved shootings does not mean he has a lack of trust in an agency to conduct the investigation.

“It really is a perception matter, especially in these times where police authority is under extreme scrutiny,” Gmoser said.

The sheriff’s office is conducting its own investigation of Monday’s shooting, said Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said. But he added BCI is used for analyzing some aspects like ballistics.

“That’s always been his (Gmoser’s) policy, take them to the grand jury and recommend to the police departments that they bring in BCI. Not all departments do it and we don’t do it either,” Jones said. “We have the capacity and the integrity to do this ourselves.”

Jones noted the sheriff’s office has also investigated officer-involved shootings for smaller department in the county.

“We are a large enough agency that we can do our own and also assist in others,” Jones said. “It would be different if we had a history of not having any integrity, but we do and we call it like it is.”

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