Police Abuse

Ohio Deputy Shoots and Kills Unarmed 16-Year-Old Outside Courtroom

Spurs calls for officers to stop carrying guns in court


family photo

Richard Scarborough, a sheriff's deputy in Franklin County, Ohio, fatally shot 16-year-old Joseph Haynes during a scuffle outside a juvenile courtroom on January 17. Haynes' death has raised questions about whether officers in juvenile court should be armed with guns in the first place.

The shooting happened when Scarborough got into a fight with members of Haynes' family after the boy's hearing. (Haynes had been charged with menacing with a gun.) Police claim that Scarborough was "somehow knocked to the ground where he came under attack"; family members say Scarborough grabbed Haynes' mother and Haynes stepped in to defend her.

The vice president of the local Fraternal Order of Police insists that Scarborough was in a "fight for [his] life at some point." The deputy had a black eye and other bruises and abrasions, and he was taken to the hospital for "non-life threatening injuries."

The sheriff's office initially withheld the deputy's name, saying there had been death threats against him. But it eventually released Scarborough's identity, along with video from the courthouse. The video does not include the shooting.

In a press conference earlier this month, the sheriff said investigators are looking for any cellphone footage that might have caught the shooting. They have talked to about 20 witnesses, but the sheriff claimed his office has had trouble collecting reliable information because the location of the fight changed during its course.

The executive director of the Juvenile Justice Coalition, Erin Davies, told the Columbus Dispatch she didn't know of any juvenile court in Ohio that had unarmed security personnel but said it was a "perfectly reasonable" question.

"I'd love to hear the answer," she said.

"Our feeling has been that we go to great lengths to screen everyone coming to court to make sure no one is armed," O'Donovan Murphy, director of marshal services for the Connecticut Judicial Branch, told the Dispatch. "If there's a problem, we don't want to be the ones introducing a weapon."

Courthouse deputies in both Connecticut and Massachusetts carry only pepper spray and batons. Scarborough's critics have asked why he didn't use his Taser instead of his firearm, and Haynes' family has called for an independent investigation.