Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh today ruled that University of Akron Police Officer Aaron Burnette did not violate any Ohio statutes in the May 16 shooting death of 64-year-old James Genda of Akron.
Genda was shot and killed by the officer after Burnette had checked on Genda's license plate registration during a traffic stop on Wolf Ledges Parkway and found that the plates on his car did not match the vehicle description. Burnette said as he walked back to Genda's car he saw Genda with a gun and then fired several shots into the car, killing James Genda.
The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun that looked like a real gun.
A relative of Genda claimed he was intending to turn the gun over to the UA police officer when the officer opened fire. The barrel of what appears to be the weapon is seen in the photo, above, blending in with the steering wheel column. This photo was taken from Officer Burnette's personal recording device, which included video and audio from the incident.
In the video the crucial four minutes start with Burnette approaching the vehicle and telling Genda to exit his vehicle when the plates come back after a registration check and the social security number Genda provided came back as belonging to "...a dead guy." Burnette asked Genda to continue the interview in Burnette's cruiser, at which point Genda says "...I hate to have to do all this..." and reaches down while exiting his vehicle. The video shows the pellet gun in Genda's hand as he talks.
Burnette immediately backs away and within the space of four seconds emptied his weapon into Genda's vehicle. There are 14 shots. The video does not show Genda being hit; the photo at left shows a shell being ejected from Burnette's weapon during the shooting.
Burnette calls in a "shots fired" notice on his police radio and remains standing beside his vehicle. At one point, he tells the driver to "...get your hands up..." while also talking with dispatchers on his radio, calling a "Signal 21." A woman is heard asking Burnette if he is OK, and he responds for her to return inside to the BMV office. Additional police respond less than 90 seconds later.
News Release From Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh
“After reviewing the reports of investigation by officers from the University of Akron Police Department and the Akron Police Department, recorded interviews with witnesses and family members of James Genda, Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab reports and video and audio recordings of the shooting, my office has determined that Officer Burnette was justified in believing Mr. Genda posed a significant threat,” said Prosecutor Walsh. “I’m sure this has been a very difficult, emotional time for both Officer Burnette and Mr. Genda’s family. My thoughts are with all of them.”
Ohio law allows an officer to use deadly force when he has reason to believe he is in danger of serious physical harm or death. Based on statements Genda made to family members and his actions and statements during this traffic stop, Officer Burnette’s use of deadly force was justified.
A copy of Walsh's report is available to view at the attachment field below. A .pdf reader program such as Adobe Acrobat is required.