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Last charges against Columbus police officer from George Floyd protests to be dismissed

Protesters on the sidewalk of the Ohio Statehouse face Columbus Police officers, who stood in the middle of High Street, on June 1, 2020.
Paige Pfleger
/
WOSU
Protesters on the sidewalk of the Ohio Statehouse face Columbus Police officers, who stood in the middle of High Street, on June 1, 2020.

A Columbus police officer charged with six misdemeanors related to using pepper spray at George Floyd protests in 2020 will not go on trial next week in Franklin County Municipal Court as scheduled.

Phillip Walls pleaded not guilty last year to charges of assault, interfering with civil rights and dereliction of duty when he was one of three city police officers charged following incidents during the George Floyd protests in May 2020 and special investigations launched in the aftermath.

Independent Prosecutor Brad Nicodemus from Whitehall, assisting on the case pro bono, said he expects the charges against Walls to be dismissed next week. He could not comment further.

The other two officers were also cleared in the case. Holly Kanode was found not guilty of dereliction of duty and falsification in July. Charges of interfering with civil rights, assault and dereliction of duty against Traci Shaw were dismissed by Nicodemus last month just before the start of a trial. Shaw had pled not guilty to the charges.

A special prosecutor who resigned in June and an independent investigator have been paid $319,000 by the city to work on the criminal cases.

A separate, administrative investigation of police conduct during the protests cost the city $615,000.

When asked to comment on the dismissal, communication director for City Attorney Zach Klein, Pete Shipley, stated in an email:

“The City Attorney’s Office demanded an independent investigation and worked collaboratively to reform policing practices, policies and oversight to ensure actions like we saw two summers ago do not happen again. To that end, with the cooperation and help of the police, community, and the court, we are headed in the right direction. The City Attorney’s office will hold public servants and public officials accountable for any illegal misconduct because the residents of Columbus expect and deserve a government that puts people first and prioritizes the rights and safety of all who live, work and visit our city.”

Glenn McEntyre, assistant director of the Department of Public Safety, said the incidents during the protests led to changes in the city police department.

“Those changes include a complete overhaul of how officers respond to civil unrest, training on protest response by the foremost experts in the world, and better ways to identify officers involved in such response,” he stated in an email. “The success of these changes is reflected in the number of protests since 2020 that have happened without incident.”

McEntyre said the Civilian Review Board and the Office of the Inspector General help ensure independent investigations of police misconduct.

“The lessons of 2020 were painful. But they resulted in a more prepared, more responsive and more accountable Division of Police,” McEntyre said.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. Fox joined the WOSU newsroom from the Tribune Chronicle/Vindicator in the Youngstown area, where she’d been a reporter since 2014. Contact Renee at renee.fox@wosu.org.