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Sinzae Reed's mother seeks justice as her son's killer remains free

Sinzae Reed
Provided photo
Sinzae Reed

When Sinzae Reed woke up on the morning of October 12, he wasn’t feeling great, but he went outside to play as his mother cooked. The next thing Megan Reed knew, there was pounding on her door. Zay, her 13-year-old son, was shot four times. He succumbed to his injuries.

The only thing left at the scene of the shooting by the time Megan Reed got back from the hospital was Sinzae’s flipflops.

Reed is demanding justice for her son. The man police said shot him was quickly arrested, but a week later Kreig Butler was released after he claimed he acted in self-defense.

The tragedy for her family grew when Butler, 36, was released to his Wedgewood Drive area apartment and police and prosecutors did not notify her.

“They should have called and told me because we're in the same neighborhood," Reed said.

Reed was at the store, shopping for clothes for Sinzae to wear at his funeral, when someone let her know Butler was back in the neighborhood. But it wasn’t the prosecutor’s office, or the police or a victim advocate that warned her, it was people in the neighborhood. They apologized eventually.

“But then all they said was like, 'We're sorry, like, you didn't have a caseworker yet,' or whatever. But sorry, doesn't work. Because that could have been me and my other kids’ lives. That don't work for me. Y’all have a job to do," Reed said. "They still should have called me and informed me that he was out.”

Reed said Butler has since been evicted from the apartment, but still shows up in the neighborhood and has had more encounters with the neighbors.

Prosecutors won’t comment on the case, except they said it is still under review.

WOSU emailed public defender Blake Carter who represented Butler in Franklin County Municipal Court where he was charged with murder. Carter did not respond.

Butler was on probation at the time of the shooting, following a conviction of domestic violence in municipal court.

Federal law bars people with domestic violence convictions from having firearms

Court records show Butler has frequently faced charges. He’s been convicted of theft, committing a misdemeanor against a companion animal and has appeared on numerous charges of driving with a suspended license.

WOSU requested police reports for the shooting and incidents involving Butler, but have yet to receive a response. When questioned about the case publicly, Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said police are still investigating.

“He was arrested, the suspect was arrested. There was a subsequent meeting with the prosecutor's office and there was a self-defense claim that came up. And, based on the information that was given, they made the determination at that time not to pursue the charges, but the case is not closed by any means," she said.

Megan Reed said she was told Butler was feuding with some other people in the area and discovered someone had shot his truck.

She rejects any claim that Butler could have acted in self-defense.

“Zay is not that big at all, so how could you need to defend yourself from him?” she said.

Megan Reed said witnesses told her Sinzae had his back to Butler when he began shooting.

“She said that he came out with a ski mask, and started shooting. And Sinzae didn’t know what was coming," Megan Reed said.

She said she is feeling let down by the city and county justice system, and wonders if Butler’s claim of self-defense would have been accepted if her son was white. She said she hasn’t heard from detectives since October.

“I really get no information. So we had to really go out and protest at the court building, then I spoke to the prosecutor,” Reed said.

Reed said they told her they didn’t have enough evidence.

“So they let him out because they’re waiting for an autopsy to come back to present to the grand jury," Reed said.

WOSU reached out to the coroner to inquire about the investigation, but have not heard back.

Protestors are calling on Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack to resign for dismissing the charges and plan to protest at Monday night's Columbus City Council.

Columbus police said they’re waiting on key forensic and ballistic evidence to move the case forward. Prosecutors will then determine if the case should be presented to a grand jury.

The mayor's office declined to comment on the case.

Megan Reed said speculation and a lack of transparency is making a difficult situation even harder.

"It is really, really hard," Reed said. "When you have people on the internet that are talking about my son, they don't even know my son. And that hurts my heart, like you don't even know him. He's 13 years old. This man is 36 years old."

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.