Prosecutor: Officer was justified in killing suspect

Published: Jun. 9, 2010 at 6:20 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2010 at 6:24 PM EDT
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HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) — Police officer Casey Johnson was "justified" in his use of deadly force to stop a local man from beating his girlfriend with a claw hammer during a fight in late April, according to Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper.

Piper's independent investigation matches with what Hamilton police have been saying all along: Had Johnson not killed Joshua Berkheimer with a single shot from his service weapon on April 25, the 25-year-old Hamilton man would have proceeded to kill his girlfriend, Jamie Belty.

It also revealed additional details not released by police about what led up the nearly-deadly beating and about Berkheimer himself, who was apparently obsessed with violence, torture and sex.

"It is always a serious matter when a police officer has to use force against a citizen in the performance of his official duties," Piper wrote in a letter to Hamilton Police Chief Neil Ferdelman. "Officer Casey Johnson encountered a domestic-related homicide in progress, and in a split-second he had to make an incredibly intense and difficult decision."

"Fortunately for Ms. Belty, Officer Johnson correctly assessed the situation and responded in an entire reasonable and legally justified manner ... Jamie Belty is alive today because of Officer Johnson's heroic action."

According to the prosecutor's assessment, Belty's actions toward another man that night is likely what set Berkheimer off.

Local resident Ron Tinkhan reported to police that he had spent the evening with Belty, and that the two were "flirting, dancing (and) kissing ..."

Berkheimer later confronted Tinkhan via phone. Tinkhan then text messaged Belty about Berkheimer's call, and she responded twice. The next phone call Tinkhan received was from Berkheimer, who was using Belty's phone.

"Berkheimer said that he hit her with a hammer and do you hear this," Tinkhan told police. "I heard a faint noise from her in the background. I would describe it as a low moaning sound."

According to the report, "it appears Berkheimer was attempting to torment Tinkhan by letting him know over the phone he was torturing and murdering Ms. Belty."

Police also found a large collection of "magazines, movies and memorabilia evidencing Berkheimer's fascination with graphic depictions of deadly violence and sexually motivated torture."

When Hamilton police opened the unlocked door to Berkheimer's apartment, they found him kneeling next to Belty swinging the hammer violently.

After Berkheimer disobeyed orders to drop the hammer and continued to swing it, Johnson fired the single fatal shot.

Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave following the incident, per department policy. During his time off, he visited Belty in the hospital.

Belty was released last month from Miami Valley Hospital to a facility near her home in northern Ohio. Last week, she was released from that facility and continues her recovery at home.

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