A Butler County grand jury has declined to indict five Monroe officers for the February shooting that killed Dustin Booth.
Five officers have been on paid administrative leave since the incident that happened late Feb. 11 after hours of Monroe officers trying to talk and negotiate with 35-year-old Booth, who was experiencing mental health issues, according to police.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation, and the findings were presented to a grand jury this week.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser announced the grand jury results Tuesday morning, stating in a press release, “Using lethal force by the Monroe police to stop the lethal threat of force directed against them was justified and appropriate.”
Attorney Konrad Kircher, who is representing Booth’s family, told the Journal-News a federal lawsuit will be filed against the officers and the department.
“The grand jury outcome was not justice. The family will now seek justice in federal court. We will file a lawsuit next week against the officers and the department,” Kircher said.
The BCI investigation revealed Booth had a recent history of behavioral issues resulting in a brief hospitalization. On Feb. 11, those issues reemerged and the Monroe Police Department was called in because of concerns that Booth may endanger himself and others with a firearm he was seen to possess, according to Gmoser.
“The Monroe Police Department made the tactical decision not to escalate Mr. Booth’s condition and did not forcibly confront Mr. Booth where he was isolated in his home alone after failing to comply with police orders to stop a vehicle he was driving when the police were informed of his conduct. The home of Mr. Booth is in close proximity to neighbors and any confrontation there was seen as endangering the civilian population.
Two police negotiators by phone were also unsuccessful in convincing Mr. Booth to meet with police and his voluntary temporary isolation was decided upon as the best immediate solution until Mr. Booth decided to come forward peaceably,” Gmoser said.
Late in the day, a friend of Booth took it upon himself to intercede, Gmoser said. The man gave Booth a ride away from the neighborhood and he was able to inform the police via text that Booth was armed with a pistol.
“At a location in Monroe near State Route 63, the police directed the driver to stop and Booth exited the vehicle with his .45 caliber, fully loaded, revolver in a holster over his shoulder and continued to walk away after the police directed him to stop. He did not, but with both hand (s) in the air as seen by a witness nearby. A police canine was directed to intercept Mr. Booth, but was unsuccessful in stopping him. There upon, Mr. Booth was physically confronted by a Monroe police officer as four other Monroe officers converged,“ Gmoser said.
“Both the confronting officer and Mr. Booth went down to the ground, and as Mr. Booth stood up with his pistol in hand, he pointed it in the direction of the five Monroe police officers, all of whom immediately fired their service weapons to stop the assault. This action was captured on a police officer body camera and is definitive of the moment before shots were fired. Mr. Booth was struck multiple times and he survived a short time before he died at a local hospital. Using lethal force by the Monroe police to stop the lethal threat of force directed against them was justified and appropriate.”
Body camera videos from the officers involved, Sgt. Caleb Payne, Officer Michael Doughman, Officer Skylar Halsey, Officer Micah Day and Officer Austin Whitt, were released earlier this month by Monroe police. The nighttime videos, which are shaky from officers’ activity, appear to show that Booth had a gun in his hand when the officers fired.
Warren County Coroner Russell Uptegrove said a preliminary report indicates Booth was shot 13 times.
Kircher pointed out Gmoser says he presented “all relevant evidence.”
But “Who decided what was relevant? The prosecutor. There is an inherent bias in a county prosecutor convening a grand jury to consider charges against police officers who work with the prosecutor’s office on a daily basis,” Kircher said.
The attorney said no one from the Booth family was asked to testify at grand jury.
“We were not asked for suggestions of witnesses. We don’t know who the witnesses were; they were likely just the officers,” Kircher said.
The attorney noted the press release says the friend took it upon himself to intercede, but other evidence indicates that is not the case.
“We have text messages and witnesses which substantiate that it was the police who initiated the plan for a pretextual traffic stop. We then know that the police initiated the violence even though Dustin had committed no crime,” Kircher said.
Monroe Police Chief Bob Buchanan and City Manager William Brock did not respond to request for comment
Booth’s wife called 911 about 2:10 p.m. on that day stating her husband was experiencing a mental health crisis. She also said he was a danger to himself and to others.
Officers went to the the neighborhood where Booth drove to his Blue Grass Lane residence. He went inside without complying with officers trying to stop him, according to Monroe police.
Officers believed Booth was armed and had access to other weapons in the house. They “pulled back” from the residence in an effort to calm the situation, but maintained observation on the residence out of concerns for the safety of the surrounding neighbors and community, police said.
When Booth left the house as a passenger in a vehicle, officers followed because there was a concern he was a danger to himself and the community. Officers followed to coordinate a traffic stop in and effort to take Booth into custody and have him transported to the hospital for mental health evaluation.
When Booth exited the vehicle, he failed to comply with the order of several officers and began walking away from the vehicle toward Ohio 63 with his hands up, according to police.
Officers then attempted to take Booth into custody. That is when he brought his hands down and pulled a handgun from the area of his waistline. This caused several officers to fire their weapons striking him multiple times, police said.
Dustin Booth was the father of two sons. His family said he was a great husband and father and coached the boys in multiple youth sports leagues, according to the statement from the attorney. Booth worked for Cleveland Cliffs for 13 years and he had a side business power washing and cleaning the exterior of homes.
He had no criminal record.