2 Fairfield Township officers resign after choosing not to fire at armed suspect

Two officers from another jurisdiction eventually did shoot and kill the suspect.
'Just inappropriate': Chief discusses response to armed homicide suspect
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:44 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2022 at 9:08 AM EDT
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FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - Two Fairfield Township police officers resigned last week after opting not to use deadly force against an armed homicide suspect earlier this month.

Later in the same encounter on Oct. 8, Hamilton police officers shot and killed the suspect, 25-year-old Stephaun Jones.

The multi-scene incident began in Hamilton around 7 p.m. at the Marathon station on Fairgrove Avenue.

An altercation at the gas station allegedly led to a shooting that left one person dead in the road. Police say Jones, the shooter, fled the scene.

Butler County dispatchers received a 911 call from a resident, Jeff Black, who followed Jones. He stayed on the phone with the call-taker and provided real-time updates.

Eventually, Black reported Jones had pulled into a driveway on Morris Road in Fairfield Township.

Hamilton police officers responded to the gas station scene. Fairfield Township police officers were dispatched to Morris Road, where they found Jones’s car.

The Hamilton officers responded to Morris Road to help find Jones. Police say two Hamilton officers found him on Tara Brooke Court around 8 p.m.

Black, still on with the 911 call-taker, reported, “They’re telling him to stop. He won’t stop. He’s running into the woods and they’ve got their guns drawn.”

Police have said Jones showed a handgun to the officers, which prompted the Hamilton officers to shoot him. He died at the University of Cincinnati.

Fairfield Township Chief of Police Robert Chabali says mistakes were made by his two former officers, Austin Reed and Mark Bartlett.

“Just inappropriate on our part, unfortunately,” he said.

Chabali explains the officers tried to use a taser on Jones, who then took off running, which precipitated the larger search.

Bartlett notes in his report that he was “unable to take a shot at the male due to a citizen mowing his lawn behind the male suspect.”

Chabali argues Reed and Bartlett should have pulled their guns and fired at Jones when they saw him with a gun in his hand.

“They observed a weapon in the suspect’s right hand, and for one reason or another, they didn’t stop that threat,” Chabali said Tuesday. “So, one of the officers mistakenly deployed a taser, which is not the appropriate weapon when you’re facing a firearm, a lethal firearm.”

Reed and Bartlett were in active-shooter training a week before the incident.

Chabali has seen officers struggle with indecision in the past.

“We had a similar incident in Dayton many, many years ago with an officer who couldn’t pull the trigger, and that officer ended up being shot by the suspect, and then that officer became a quadriplegic and died a year later, so it’s very dear to me,” he said. “We have addressed the ability to use force when necessary—and the proper force when necessary—repeatedly since I’ve been here.”

Chabali accepted Reed and Bartlett’s resignations last week.

He described their resignations as voluntary.

“One resigned on Monday, and the other on Thursday,” the police chief said. “They’re good people, but at some point and time, they made a decision that they couldn’t take a human life if they had to, and the best thing for them to do is move on.”

Both Reed and Bartlett were hired within the last year and remained in their probationary period with the department when the shooting happened.

Asked why two probationary officers were out on their own, Chabali responded, “They had both met standards enough to be able to be by themselves in their car, and it’s one of those incidents where they were close to the area when the call came out and they were the first to respond. A third officer responded within about a minute, and he was a senior officer.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating the officer-involved shooting, and the two Hamilton police officers have been placed on administrative leave, which aligns with departmental policy.

Hamilton police are investigating the homicide.

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