Lawyers Blame Photographer After He Was Shot by Deputy Who Mistook His Tripod for a Gun

Lawyers Blame Photographer After He Was Shot by Deputy Who Mistook His Tripod for a Gun

You might remember Andy Grimm, an Ohio photographer who was shot by Deputy Jake Shaw after he stopped to take pictures of a traffic stop and his tripod was mistaken for a gun. Grimm filed a lawsuit against the county, but lawyers say not only were the deputy's actions "reasonable," but Grimm's own "negligence... contributed to cause the injuries."

Lawyers for Clark County allege that Deputy Shaw's actions were reasonable and Grimm is responsible for causing the shooting that left him seriously injured last year:

Defendants aver that it reasonably appeared to Deputy Shaw that Andrew Grimm possessed a firearm under the conditions facing him, in the course and scope of his employment, and in good faith, to make a split-second decision to discharge his weapon in order to protect the public and himself from perceived deadly harm. Plaintiff Andrew Grimm’s own contributory and or comparative negligence and/or assumption of the risk may have caused or contributed to cause the injuries and damages of which he complains.

The shooting happened when Grimm pulled up in his Jeep to take pictures of a traffic stop. Deputy Shaw saw him pulling a tripod out of the back of the vehicle and shot him after assuming it was a gun. Grimm says prior to that, he had flashed his lights and waved at the deputy, whom he knew personally. 

The lawsuit further alleges that Grimm's wife, Melanie, and the New Carlisle News have experienced loss of business after law enforcement agencies retaliated against them. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations is still investigating the shooting. 

Lead image by Scott Davidson, used under Creative Commons.

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Alex Cooke's picture

As I understand it, he was going to take pictures of storms and it seems he happened upon the traffic stop. It's hard to tell, but in the body cam footage, it looks like he was wearing a white t-shirt and was about 30 feet (across the road) from the deputy. Either way, I don’t think a reflective vest should be the determiner of if someone gets shot or not.

Jen Photographs's picture

Are you suggesting that every Joe Schmuck wear some kind of identifier or label in public? That's very 1984.

Motti Bembaron's picture

In many countries taking your gun out of the holster (as a police officer) can result in disciplinary hearing if you cannot show a very good reason in doing so.

Jon Kellett's picture

In New Zealand we have the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), which is pretty cool.

Their function: Receive complaints alleging misconduct or neglect of duty by any member of police.
Receive complaints concerning any police practice, policy or procedure affecting a complainant.
Investigate incidents in which a member of police (acting in the execution of his or her duty) causes or appears to have caused death or serious bodily harm.

They also make sure that persons in police custody are being treated appropriately.

After their investigations, they determine whether any police act or omission was unlawful, unreasonable, unjustified, unfair or undesirable.

Whilst they can't lay charges, should the police response be unsatisfactory to the IPCA, they inform the Attorney General and the Minister of Police. The AG must also inform parliament.

It would be very difficult for the police to act unsatisfactorily once the minister, AG and press gets involved.

The system isn't perfect, but certainly would've ensured that the cops weren't seeking retribution. Also would ensure that if the cop who shot the photographer was negligent, it'd have been determined by now and the cop charged accordingly by the police.

Perhaps the US needs to look at creating a similar body to investigate the police.

amanda daniels's picture

I don't really understand how you mistake a tri-pod for a gun. While I understand police officers need to protect themselves and others I am having a very hard time understanding this at all.

Motti Bembaron's picture

You, me and many others. Yet, it seems police forces have a hard time admitting wrong doing. An Australian woman was shot not too long ago in Minneapolis. Ironically and sadly she actually called 911 for help. Well, although this imbecile is charged with murder, still no answer to why he did it. Way too much covering up.

Scott S's picture

I had two officers pull guns on me because someone called in said I was walking toward a house with a shotgun...I had a tripod with a DSLR & a white 70-200 lens on it. Looking back on these types of posts, I'm very thankful I was shooting around sunset and not at dark. Also, very thankful those two officers were calm and could have been bad.

Scott S's picture

Well,’they were responding to a man with my description they were told was running to a house with a shotgun. They were about 60 meters away, and just trying to go home safely to their families at night. Luckily they showed restraint. Interestingly , we are an open carry state haha

Scott S's picture

Gotcha, thanks for correcting the accuracy of my personal experience.

Scott S's picture

Gotcha. And whether or not I open, or conceal, doesn’t matter. Bottom line, I hope you have a great day and I hope our journalists, officers, and pedestrians all go home safely tonight.

Jon Kellett's picture

That really makes me scratch my head. I can only conclude that there must be some very panicky people in your part of town.

Meanwhile, I've been out in the middle of the night (wearing dark clothes) taking photos and had the cops drive past and wave!

Motti Bembaron's picture

"I can only conclude that there must be some very panicky people in your part of the world....".

Anonymous's picture

1. I can see how a law enforcement officer, particularly one in a high stress situation, could easily make such an error.

2. Why would anyone with a current (ish) camera need a tripod for this sort of capture? Indeed, wouldn't you be better served not being slowed down by a tripod? For that matter, wouldn't you be better off not attracting that degree of attention to yourself?

Edit: and because I can see what is coming (i.e. a bunch of enraged photographers will attack me)

1. Yes, I use tripods.
2. I used to work in high risk security.
3. I currently work as a factual investigator; within this role is often deal with subjective perception (and yes, I'm very good at it).

Edit 2:

1. I gather it was night time. What was the lighting with regard to the plaintiff?
2. Was the plaintiff rushing to get the shot?
3. What was the distance between the plaintiff and the respondent? (30 feet?)

Anonymous's picture

Stfu Bob

You're not even a competent troll.

Motti Bembaron's picture

You must be kidding, right? You actually want people to shape their lives to accommodate incompetence police or policy? Russia was like that, so was China.

Anonymous's picture

You must be kidding, right? You don't understand that humans are human, nor do you comprehend context.

But if you want to drive the wrong way up a one way street, by all means.

It's quite extraordinary that you people believe cops should be shot before responding.

Matt Hucke's picture

...but carrying rifles is legal, too, isn't it? So the cop shot the guy because he suspected the photog was doing something completely legal.

Anonymous's picture

Yeah, go pull a firearm on a LEO in the States. Let us all know how that works out for you.

To be clear, lethal force is a valid form of self-defense.

Anonymous's picture

Because your ignorance is manifest, Bob, and it is quite obvious that I know more than you do about the laws and principles of your nation.

No one gives a shit about your empty opinion. It is quite obvious that you are nothing more than a worthless troll.

There is one of you everywhere. Just another worthless piece of garbage, who spends a huge amount of their free time on social media arguing with everyone.

Anonymous's picture

Sure you are, Bob.

A troll is, by definition:

A member of an internet forum who continually harangues and harasses others. Someone with nothing worthwhile to add to a certain conversation, but rather continually threadjacks or changes the subject, as well as thinks every member of the forum is talking about them and only them.

Which describes you perfectly.

Go bother someone else. I have no respect for you at all, and you have nothing to contribute.

Anonymous's picture

Just so you understand; the US Second Amendment rights are derived from the common law right of self-defence - expressly stated for the collective, and implied for the individual.

The existence of the right to possess arms in no way abrogates the common law right of self-defense (being the superordinate right).

Anonymous's picture

Sure troll

Anonymous's picture

You simply can't make this crap up. Idiots claiming that a principle derived from the idea that you can defend yourself abrogates your right to defend yourself.

You really are just that stupid.

Anonymous's picture

To paraphrase:

You can possess a gun, but you can't use that gun to defend yourself.

You wut?!

Carlos Garcia's picture

"In the course and scope of his employment, and in good faith, to make a split-second decision to discharge his weapon....from perceived deadly harm." So, under this reasoning, it'd be ok to shoot a police officer if "in good faith" I had to make a split second decision if I "perceived deadly harm" to my self BEFORE I was able to identify him as a police officer. What's good for the goose is also good for the gander, correct?

Anonymous's picture


B In SEA's picture

Cops get let off (with a few weeks PAID leave) because of what they BELIEVE they saw at the time. No one else gets to use that standard, you will be charged at least with manslaughter. What it really means is, "It crossed my mind that the object in his hand COULD be a gun, and I want to go home to my family, so I shot him." No accountability for the lack of discretion and lack of deescalation attempts.

The militarization of the US police force is a real problem, but perhaps the bigger problem is that they get to play Army with a far lower standard for justified shooting.

Lars Daniel Terkelsen's picture

Only in the US.
(Yes, I will upset some people, but it is the sad truth.)

Pedro Pulido's picture

this is not about a photographer or the misinterpretation of what a tripod is. This is a problem with guns and the way they are used. this would not have happened in another country other than the US, which means lots of things need to change when it comes to gun use and it's laws.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

First of all, I am amazed by the amount of shooting in the USA. Most people in my country (the Netherlands) die without ever seeing or hearing a gun in real life and most police officers never have to draw their guns, let alone fire them. I would be never if I was the police officer knowing that you could get shot at at any moment.
But it takes a particular type of soulless, heartless, uncaring and spiteful creature to blame the photographer. The world would be a better place without lawyers. Most of them seem to have sold their souls, life, honesty, morality and pride to the dark side.

Ben Cat's picture

The frequent reports of police shootings of unarmed citizens is disturbing. The "felt threatened" defense that tries to shift blame to the victim does not pass the sniff test, destroys police credibility and highlights poor threat assessment training or worse. To be sure there are a record number of guns that pose a potential threat to everyone but that does not justify shooting people who are holding a tripod, camera, phone or candy bar--usually within seconds of the encounter--and then try to cover up the mistake. Police are supposed to protect and serve rather than threaten us. In this situation it is absurd to "perceive deadly harm" when a car stops and the driver gets out and walks to the back to retrieve gear; if it were an ambush the driver would fire out the window and flee post-haste.

Jon Dize's picture

I guess all of this virtual training to make sure they can tell a firearm from a smartphone, rifle from a three legged tripod is wasted expense. It does not appear to work in most cases, I've seen dozens of cases where the training did not appear to work.

Peter Mueller's picture

For all the discussion about who's the bad fellow here (Photog BAD/Cop BAD) everyone seems to be missing the real basis of this litigation - and all others like it. It's lawyers and liability. Betcha the cop feels horrible about what happened, would love the municipality to recompense the photog, and everyone move on. He (the cop) could lose his job or be reassigned in this scenario, but he might actually feel like a decent human being with that outcome.

Nick E.'s picture

Isn't Ohio an open carry state anyway? So even if it had been a gun, why did that meathead perforate him for something perfectly legal?