DAYTON, Ohio (CN) – A news photographer who was shot in the stomach after a deputy mistook his camera for a gun filed an excessive-force lawsuit that also claims city officials have retaliated against his news outlet by withholding information since the incident.
On the evening of Sept. 4, 2017, Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Shaw shot 37-year-old photographer Andy Grimm in the stomach and grazed his shoulder with another bullet.
Body cam footage released after the incident suggested that Shaw was horrified when he learned that he had mistaken Grimm's camera for a gun. The officer comforted Grimm until emergency services arrived and took him to hospital.
“Andy, I thought it was a friggin’ gun, dude,” Shaw said on the recording. “Stay strong with me. I love you, brother."
Grimm apparently shouldered some responsibility for the shooting, telling Shaw: “It's all right, dude ... It's my fault. I got ya.”
But a lawsuit filed Thursday by Grimm in Dayton federal court is far from friendly, accusing Shaw of escalating what appeared to be a non-threatening incident and turning it into a potentially fatal one.
Grimm, represented by lead attorney Argeri Lagos of Lagos & Lagos in Springfield, Ohio, sued Shaw, the Clark County Board of County Commissioners and the city of New Carlisle.
Despite earlier reports that Grimm was out photographing a lightning storm, the complaint says that he had stopped to record Shaw after the deputy made a traffic stop in the parking lot of Studebaker's Country Restaurant. According to the complaint, Grimm owns media outlet and local news source KBA News with his father, Dale Grimm. KBA publishes under the banner New Carlisle News.
Grimm’s father declined to comment on Friday, instead referring Courthouse News to a story on its website.
In a phone interview, Grimm thanked the people in his community for helping him recover. He said that he has the "utmost respect" for law enforcement but that does not mean officers are above the law.
"My biggest issue is with the policies Clark County and the sheriff's department has in place that returns an employee to work while an active criminal investigation is ongoing. I just cannot fathom that," Grimm said.
Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett and the city of New Carlisle did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.
Alleging excessive force under the Fourth and 14th Amendments, Grimm claims he parked his car under a street lamp across from Shaw after observing the deputy initiating a traffic stop and flashed his headlights to let the officer know he was there.
Grimm alleges he waved at Shaw, was in plain view and was wearing media credentials around his neck. The photographer says he got out of his car and began to set up his camera equipment to document the stop when the deputy shot him without warning.
One bullet ripped through his stomach and the other grazed his shoulder, according to the complaint.
"I never saw a muzzle flash. I never heard a warning. I never heard 'stop.' I never saw the deputy," Grimm told Courthouse News.
Grimm says he was taken to Miami Valley Hospital and was treated laparoscopically for gunshot wounds to his left lower anterior chest and lower posterior chest wall.
According to Grimm’s lawsuit, his medical records were “unlawfully accessed” while he was at the hospital on Sept. 5.
“Why and for whom that information was unlawfully accessed is currently unknown,” the filing says.
After the shooting, Grimm claims city officials and local law enforcement cooled on New Carlisle News.
“Since the shooting of Andy, the City of New Carlisle and the Clark County Sheriff’s office have withheld and/or delayed providing KBA News, LLC information regarding the community,” the 18-page lawsuit states.
Grimm says he has suffered from headaches and anxiety since the shooting and is "very anxious" whenever he sees deputies or other members of law enforcement.
The complaint accuses Shaw of having a record of “substandard" work and states he has been assigned to work at the Clark County Jail.
Active duty officers are sometimes assigned special duty at football games and other events. According to a New Carlisle News report, Shaw provided security at a Northwestern football game in October and was armed.
Grimm said that he was shaken when he heard that Shaw had been at the game.
"I had a severe physical reaction to it. I was not OK with it, especially since the Bureau of Criminal Investigations is still conducting an investigation," Grimm said.
He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs.
Ohio Attorney General spokeswoman Dorcas Jones said the state's investigation into the shooting is ongoing.