Struthers officers won’t be charged in fatal shooting
Grand Jury declines to indict in April 1 death of James Sheets
YOUNGSTOWN – Two Struthers police officers involved in the fatal April 1 shooting of a man on Youngstown’s West Side following a chase that began in Struthers will not face charges, according to Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova.
A grand jury declined to indict the two on charges against Struthers police Capt. Matt Haus and officer Tom Schneeman Thursday, DeGenova said. A grand jury report listed no bills for two “John Does.” DeGenova confirmed the list referred to the officers involved in the shooting of James Sheets, 35, of Youngstown.
The officers previously were unidentified.
The case was investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. DeGenova said her office “thoroughly reviewed the case and presented it to the grand jury for consideration. After hearing evidence, the grand jury returned a no bill, finding insufficient basis to move forward with any criminal charges.”
DeGenova also said the investigation determined Haus did not fire his weapon.
Ohio BCI turned its investigation over to the prosecutor’s office in October.
Sheets was killed about 5:15 p.m. April 1 at Steel Street and Salt Springs Road on Youngstown’s West Side at the end of a chase from Struthers involving two Struthers officers. A Struthers police report states a Struthers officer, now identified as Schneeman, fired on Sheets after Sheets “produced a firearm.”
Video and audio recordings show the officer getting out of his cruiser as sirens wail and immediately yelling, “Show me your hands” twice in about three seconds, then yelling, “Got a gun! Gun!” three seconds later. The gunfire begins one second later.
While the shots were being fired, the body camera captured Sheets only briefly. The officer’s arms seemed to block most of the view captured by the camera. Sheets appeared to be sitting normally in the brief glimpses of him.
After the shots stopped, Schneeman yelled to his fellow officer, now identified as Haus, “Reloading. Reloading,” indicating he was reloading another clip of ammunition into his firearm.
Then the officer yelled, “He’s got a gun” a few more times as he moved to the back of a gold-colored car with Haus to his right.
Sixteen seconds after the first shots were fired, Schneeman yelled, “Show us your hands.” At about 70 seconds after gunfire began, Schneeman told Haus he fired his weapon, then added, “He shot at me.”
At about two minutes after the gunfire began, the officer moved back to the left and appeared to take a closer look at Sheets and uttered an expletive two times.
At about the same time it became apparent that a third officer, apparently from the Youngstown Police Department, was there. Officers with the Youngstown Police Department had joined the chase as it headed into Youngstown on Interstate 680, but none of the Youngstown officers were involved in using stun guns or firing at Sheets, Capt. Jason Simon said at the time.
A little less than four minutes after the gunfire began, Schneeman walked toward the driver’s window of Sheets’ car while holding a shield that blocked much of the view of the body camera. The officer said something about a gun, then said more clearly that the gun was “on the floor board” of Sheets’ car.
Sheets was seated in the driver’s seat of his own car when he was shot, Schneemann’s body camera video shows. His car was stopped in the road.
The pursuit from Struthers to Youngstown’s West Side began about a block from the Struthers police station at 5:05 p.m.
An officer, now identified as Schneeman, began to pursue Sheets in his gold Chevrolet Malibu from the parking lot of the Wildcat Drive-Thru, 84 State St., after the Sheets vehicle “struck” the officer “in the drive-thru,” according to a call record released several days later by Struthers police Chief Tim Roddy.
It started the chase along State Street and onto Interstate 680 into Youngstown and the exit at Salt Springs Road on the West Side.
The Struthers Police Department is in Struthers City Hall, 6 Elm St., about a block from the drive-thru.
At the intersection of Salt Springs Road, Sheets got off the interstate. At Salt Springs Road and Steel Street, Schneeman and Haus confronted Sheets, whom Struthers police said pulled out a gun.
The shooting took place at 5:14 p.m., according to the abbreviated call log the chief released. A Struthers officer called for more officers at 5:15 p.m., and Roddy was notified of the shooting at 5:16 p.m.
At 6:52 p.m., Detective Dan Mamula reported he escorted the officer who began the chase to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, and a second officer also was going to be taken to the hospital. Mamula reported he had finished at the hospital and returned to Steel Street at 7:26 p.m.
“Officers deployed Tasers in an effort to obtain compliance from the suspect. The suspect produced a firearm and was subsequently subdued by the involved officers,” Roddy said at the time.
Reached Thursday evening, Roddy declined to comment on the grand jury’s decision. He said Schneeman was on paid leave for a short time after the shooting per departmental policy whenever there is an officer-involved shooting, but he has returned to work. He said Schneeman has been a Struthers officer for about five or six years.
Haus has been on medical leave since the incident because of injuries sustained during the April 1 chase, but Roddy expects him eventually to return to the force. He said Haus has been with the Struthers Police Department for 19 years.