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Three Columbus Police Officers Charged For Actions During 2020 Summer Protests

State troopers and police officers blocking the intersection of High and State streets. Police vehicles took over the center turning lane for nearly two blocks of High Street between Broad and Town Streets on Sunday, June 21, 2020.
Nick Evans

Columbus Special Prosecutor Kathleen Garber and independent investigator Rick Wozniak announced that they have charged three Columbus Division of Police officers for misconduct during the 2020 summer protests in Columbus sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

The three police officers who were charged are Traci Shaw, Holly Kanode and Phillip Walls.

Shaw was charged with three counts of assault, three counts of interfering with civil rights and three counts of dereliction of duty. The first two charges are level one misdemeanors, the third charge is a level two misdemeanor.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther selected Shaw to serve on the city’s Community Safety Advisory Commission, which he announced in 2017. That commission issued more than 80 recommendations to the city, including the formation of a civilian review board. She has testified on behalf of the city in federal use of force lawsuits.

Kanode faces one count of falsification and one count of dereliction of duty. Falsification is a level one misdemeanor, dereliction of duty is a level two.

Walls was charged with two counts of assault, two counts of dereliction of duty and two counts of interfering with civil rights.

Garber, who was independently appointed to investigate the alleged police misconduct, said more officers could face charges.

In March, an independent investigator issued orders for six Columbus Police officers to participate in the probe after most officers declined to be interviewed.

Garber said after officers declined to be interviewed, she tried a number of measures to get more information about what happened during the summer 2020 protests.

"The first things were an external website was set up for the public to review the videos we were investigating and to provide any information they might have that could be helpful with respect to those investigations and identifying those police officers," Garber said.

That did not provide enough information, so Garber said the independent investigator attempted to have officers ordered in.

"Unfortunately, the officers then filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent those interviews from going forward," Garber said. "And that matter has been sent to arbitration. So we are awaiting the results of that arbitration hearing."

Columbus Police Accountability Project Community Organizer Jasmine Ayres said the charges are welcome news.

"People need to be held accountable for their actions but it is frustrating that it takes someone from the outside to hold Columbus Police accountable," Ayres said.

She said that police’s lack of willingness to be interviewed demonstrates cowardice.

"I think that this further demonstrates the need for the Department of Justice to come to the City of Columbus," Ayres said. "Because we cannot manage to hold people accountable on our own. And it seems the only way that we get anything done here is with federal oversight."

WOSU reached out to the Fraternal Order Police for a comment on the charges, but has not heard back.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.