TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A northwest Ohio village police chief fatally shot an armed man in the back from 70 yards away while the man sat beneath a tree talking to a deputy sheriff just 15 feet away who was trying to end the standoff, according to a federal wrongful death lawsuit by the man’s family last week in Toledo
The lawsuit filed by 59-year-old John Anderson’s ex-wife, son and daughter said Edon Police Chief Thomas Szymczak had no reason to kill Anderson last June at the man’s home in Montpelier in rural Williams County.
The Williams County sheriff was in charge of the scene with deputies “in complete control of the situation” when Szymczak killed Anderson with an assault-style rifle, the lawsuit said.
“Szymczak shot Anderson in the back despite the fact there was no order to shoot,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit filed against the village and police chief alleges that Szymczak told authorities he shot Anderson because the deputies wouldn’t.
A grand jury declined to indict Szymczak, The Blade has reported. The newspaper also has reported that Szymczak returned to work in January after a seven-month paid leave.
The Edon village solicitor has disputed the lawsuit’s claims. Szymczak doesn’t have a publicly listed telephone number. Neither The Blade nor The Associated Press could reach him for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Anderson was in poor health and receiving in-home medical care when, on the morning of June 16, 2016, he called the medical provider and said he was armed and “was done with his life.” Company officials contacted the Williams County Sheriff’s Office, which sent deputies to his home.
Anderson was sitting in a chair outside the home when two deputies arrived and initially took cover. Anderson refused to drop the rifle and then sat down beneath the tree and pointed the weapon at the ground as deputies had asked, the lawsuit said.
He became more agitated as other law enforcement officers arrived, including Szymczak, who had heard a radio call asking for additional officers. Edon is about 10 miles from Montpelier.
The lawsuit said Anderson told the deputy now standing in front of him unprotected: “I’m not going to hurt you, but I don’t want anyone here.”
Szymczak got out of his cruiser armed with an AR-15, turned down or turned off the volume on his communications headset and positioned himself in a field of weeds about 70 yards from Anderson, the lawsuit said. Seconds after Anderson’s daughter arrived, a shot rang out and Anderson fell backward, mortally wounded. He was pronounced dead at a hospital having been shot in the heart.
Deputies learned that the .22-caliber assault-type rifle Anderson held wasn’t functional.
The lawsuit seeks at least $150,000 in damages.
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