FAIRFIELD, Ohio – An officer-involved shooting that ended the life of a 23-year-old man in Fairfield Saturday started with a fight between a father and his son.
Authorities said the commotion began when Caleb Surface broke into his father’s home in the 2000 block of Spyglass Hill Court just before 8 p.m. Surface had forced his way into at least one other home on the street before, and was hit with a string of drug charges in the past, records show.
A physical fight then broke out between the two, police said, which led to Surface’s father calling 911.
Surface fled the house through a back door when Fairfield police officers arrived. A pursuit spanned less than a block before an officer confronted him.
While it is still unclear what happened next, Fairfield Officer Doug Day said an officer fired multiple shots at Surface, striking him at least once. Surface died a short time later in the cul-de-sac at the end of Saint Andrews Court.
"It's terrible when a 23-year-old man is shot to death in the street. It doesn't matter where it happens," neighbor Jim Bonhaus said.
Bonhaus said his normally peaceful neighborhood was rattled when the shots were fired. He had never heard or seen anything like it in his 35 years living there.
Surface’s body was carried away from the cul-de-sac by the Butler County Coroner's Office at about 4:30 a.m., almost nine hours after his father called 911.
"What a terrible way to end your life, being shot to death by a police man and laying in the street for eight hours before they take you away,” Bonhaus said. “How sad is that?"
Surface did not fire a shot at officers and it's unclear what provoked the shooting, Day said.
Day said there are many reasons why an officer might open fire, which include suggestive actions or gestures that indicate a person is armed.
"You display a weapon, you refuse our commands, you tell us you have a weapon, you make a furtive movement that makes us believe you're pulling a weapon at us, we will likely fire shots," he said.
Day did not say if Surface was armed during the confrontation with police.
Surface’s cousin Ed Kathman said Surface’s father does not believe his son was carrying a gun the night of his death.
“To the best of his father's knowledge, his son was unarmed, and that's what he told police,” Kathman said.
Kathman said Surface “didn’t take any weapons out of the house.” But he said that doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t armed.
“(Officers) never let the father out of the house, they kept him in the house," Kathman said. "They then took him and made him give a lengthy statement.”
Before his death Saturday, Surface wrote on his Facebook page, "Beer and gun hmmm what to do." He later posted, "Last words?"
In an official statement Monday, Surface's family said they will not comment on the shooting untilt he investigation is complete.
"The family expects a full and accurate accounting of what transpired from the time that Caleb left his father's home until his death a short time later," the family's lawyer said.
The family said Surface was "a kind-hearted young man who had many challenges with chemical dependency during his time on Earth."
"Caleb's father, who has solely raised his son since age ten, has dedicated his life to helping Caleb overcome these issues," the family's lawyer said. "It is our prayer that Caleb has finally found the peace that he struggled to achieve in life."
The Fairfield Police Department did not release the name of the officer that killed Surface but said he is a 10-year veteran of the force. The officer was placed on paid administrative leave while the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations and the Fairfield Police Department investigate.
Officials from the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office and the city attorney will review the results of the investigation to determine if any charges will be filed.
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