Body cam footage released by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Wednesday shows a Hocking College police officer pointing a gun and later shooting into a vehicle with a child visible in the back seat.
The driver of the vehicle, 37-year-old Michael Whitmer of Nelsonville, was killed in the shooting on July 27.
The 40-second video is from a body camera worn by Hocking College Police officer Cecil Morrison, who responded to a report of domestic violence at an apartment on Third Street.
In the video, Morrison approaches Whitmer’s vehicle with his gun drawn and points the gun into the vehicle, where a child can be seen sitting in the back seat. Nelsonville Police Chief Scott Fitch previously identified the child as Whitmer’s four-year-old son. The child was not reported to be physically harmed in the incident.
Morrison and Nelsonville Police Officer KJ Tracy demand that Whitmer, who appears to be unarmed, exit the vehicle. Officers repeatedly shout “Get out” and “Get out of the car,” and Tracy threatens to bust in the vehicle’s windows.
Whitmer attempts to reverse the car out of the driveway twice, as Tracy chases the vehicle on foot. On Whitmer’s first attempt, his vehicle crashes into an apparently unoccupied police cruiser.
As Whitmer reverses a third time, Morrison runs behind the car. Whitmer’s car exits the driveway, approaching Morrison. At this point, Morrison fires several shots through the front and back windows of the vehicle.
Whitmer drives away, again clipping the unoccupied police cruiser.
As the Messenger previously reported, Whitmer died that day from injuries sustained during the incident.
Tracy also was shot and hospitalized following the incident. Fitch confirmed Tracy’s injuries were the result of ricocheting bullets apparently fired by Morrison. Tracy returned to work within a few weeks and has been on administrative duties during his recovery, Fitch said, although he will soon undergo surgery to remove bullet fragments.
Fitch also confirmed that Morrison remains employed by Hocking and has been placed on administrative duties as the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation looks into the shooting.
Hocking Police Chief Tiffany Tims declined to comment and directed questions to Hocking’s public relations department. At press time, no one from the department had responded. Hocking College President Betty Young was unavailable to comment.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office, which oversees BCI, could not share more details about the status of the investigation. Press Secretary Steve Irwin said that on average, investigations into officer-involved shootings take 400 hours to complete.
When the investigation is complete, Irwin said, the results will be sent to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. Blackburn will have three options at that time: decline to indict; send the case to a special prosecutor; or take the case to a grand jury.