No charges against Fairfield officer who shot man

Caleb Surface. FOX19 file photo
Caleb Surface. FOX19 file photo

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - A Butler County grand jury has declined to indict in the Jan. 18 fatal shooting by a Fairfield Police officer of 23-year-old Caleb Surface.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser's office said Friday "the use of lethal force by the officer involved was justified."

Surface had been recently diagnosed with "suicidal ideation" resulting from an attempted suicide and a depressive disorder. The prosecutor's office said that on Jan. 18, Surface continued to express an intent to kill himself with a firearm. Post-mortem toxicology showed Surface at the time of his death had ingested multiple mind-altering drugs and alcohol.

Surface's father called 911 who reported that his son was out of control and he almost had to shoot him because of a domestic disturbance at his home.

When officers arrived, Surface fled following an attempt at self-mutilation. After leaving his father's residence, Surface made his way through a neighborhood where he knocked on doors and eventually broke into a property. The occupant of that property forced Surface out.

Shortly thereafter, Fairfield Police Officer Scott Conklin at approximately 8:20 p.m. saw Surface walking in snow and dark conditions.

Conklin ordered Surface to stop. Surface reportedly told the officer that he had a gun and to leave him alone. Surface continued to walk away from the officer and threatened to kill Conklin.

The officer was approximately 30 feet away from Surface when he took out his service weapon and ordered Surface to put his hands up.

The prosecutor's office said Surface at first complied but then placed his right hand in his pocket in furtive gesture. Conklin then fired two shots at Surface. One of the two shots fatally hit Surface who fell to a face-down position.

When Surface was turned over, he was seen holding a silver portable telephone in his right hand.

"On the date of this incident, the record is clear that Caleb Surface was bent on self-destruction and used a police officer in the proper exercise of his duties to accomplish that purpose," Gmoser's office said.

"This incident cannot and should not be judged by hindsight – always perfect – but by the details as factually determined to exist at the time lethal force was used. The public can have confidence that this incident was thoroughly investigated to justify the conclusion of the grand jury."

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