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Officers cleared in fatal police shooting

WARREN — A police officer and state trooper were justified when they fatally shot a man raising a shotgun toward them, the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office announced Thursday.

A 29-page report completed by Prosecutor Dennis Watkins concluded the use of deadly force by Vienna police officer Austin Kennedy and Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Scott Boyle was appropriate and justified to subdue 55-year-old Shawn Thomas, closing the investigation.

Thomas was taken to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead during surgery from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Watkins wrote, “Every statement and action of Thomas would have been interpreted by a reasonable officer on the scene” and the armed Thomas would’ve used the two shotguns he had with him.

Watkins also stated, “his (Thomas) repeated threats to harm others and himself, his representation that his weapons were loaded, and his raising and leveling of the shotgun are undeniable.”

The report states Boyle was called to assist Hubbard Township police relating to a domestic incident from the spouse of Thomas in the 2100 block of Hubbard Masury Road.

She called dispatchers around 9:11 p.m. Oct. 3, 2023, telling them her intoxicated husband choked and threatened to kill her and himself, the report states.

The report states Thomas went into the backyard, fleeing into the woods armed with two shotguns.

Boyle and Kennedy searched for Thomas in the back of residence on the north side of Van Ness Avenue, where they eventually found Thomas as he moved toward their location. The report states one shotgun hung from Thomas’ right shoulder with the muzzle pointed upward as he wielded another shotgun in his left hand as he held a cellphone to his head with his left shoulder speaking to someone in “slurred speech.”

After Thomas refused several commands to drop the weapon, the report states he placed the shotgun in his left hand on the ground, but then swung the shotgun on his right shoulder around with the barrel facing downward.

The report states “Boyle believed Thomas was going to shoot him, inflicting serious injury or death,” when Thomas raised the weapon toward Boyle as the suspect placed his right hand on the grip.

Boyle fired his weapon first and Kennedy quickly followed, both seconds after 10:29 p.m., the report states.

A postmortem drug screen concluded Thomas’ blood alcohol level was 0.207% and that he had several prescriptions in his system, the report states.

On Oct. 3, 2023, the wife of Thomas said he had been “drinking all day” and said he had been “very argumentative and irrational,” throughout the day, the report states. She said he was not suicidal, nor did he have stress or mental health issues, but said he had a “build up” supported by heavy alcohol consumption over the duration of the past several months, leading up to the shooting.

In another interview six days later, investigators observed her to have “yellow / purple” bruising on her left cheek near her mouth, along with similar bruising on her left collarbone, elbow, thigh and calf, according to the report.

The information was part of an independent investigation completed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation that included agents conducting interviews with Boyle, Kennedy, other law enforcement officers, the wife of Thomas and other witnesses.

The investigation also reviewed all available body camera footage, along with examining the evidence at the scene and the events that led up to the shooting.

BCI’s report was then provided to the prosecutor’s office for their review.

Have an interesting story? Contact Chris McBride by email at cmcbride@tribtoday.com.

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