Celina police release dash, bodycam video of fatal shooting when the driver nearly ran over the officer
A 24-year-old St. Marys man was fatally shot by Celina police in the early morning hours of Aug. 25 near the Eastview Park pond after he drove a 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer directly at a police officer, missing him by only inches, according to Celina Police Chief Tom Wale.
Wale at a Friday afternoon news conference said patrolmen David Powell and Justin Rice both fired an unspecified number of rounds at the Trailblazer driven by Corey Andrew after it "came directly at patrolman Rice."
"Two Celina police officers found themselves without cover and victims of a lethal assault," Wale said. "The officers responded as trained and with all justification, opening fire upon the threat and stopping the aggression."
Passengers Hannah Pawelski, 24, whom Wale believes was Andrew's girlfriend, and their baby were uninjured, he said. Andrew was transported to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater where he was pronounced dead. Officers didn't know a baby was in the Trailblazer until after it had come to a rest, Wale said.
Wale provided media with footage from Rice's body camera and Powell's cruiser camera that together show Andrew nearly striking Rice with the Trailblazer as he heads toward a walking path in an apparent attempt to flee the scene.
It also shows the officers opening fire on the Trailblazer. There was nobody camera footage of Powell's initial interaction with Andrew.
The shooting is being probed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which is waiting on autopsy, ballistics and crime scene reconstruction results, Wale said.
"Those take weeks, sometimes several weeks, to get compiled and complete," he noted. "When they have that done, they will have a special prosecutor that's not from Mercer County present to a grand jury. So independent investigators, independent prosecutor presenting it to the grand jury to determine that the officers are justified."
The incident began when Powell was on patrol at about 2:12 a.m. Aug. 25 on State Route 29 along the south edge of Eastview Park. He spotted an SUV parked near the park pond. The park is closed at night, and Powell went to investigate, Wale said, later noting vandalism and drug activity have occurred in city parks in the past.
Powell reportedly parked his cruiser near the parking lot entrance and approached on foot to investigate. He observed two adults in the Trailblazer, who were later identified as Andrew in the driver seat and Pawelski in the passenger seat, Wale said.
Powell noted a strong odor of burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle. Meanwhile, Rice arrived on scene and parked beside Powell's cruiser. He began to approach on foot to see if Powell needed assistance, Wale said.
According to Wale, Powell asked the Trailblazer's occupants for ID and about the marijuana. The conversation was reportedly cordial.
"However, Mr. Andrew was playing a game on his phone and he would not look up at patrolman Powell," Wale said. "He wouldn't produce identification or hand over the marijuana cigarette, which was in plain view of the police officer."
Powell told Andrew he was only facing a minor misdemeanor summons for possession of a small amount of marijuana, a nonarrestable offense, Wale said.
"At that point, Mr. Andrew put the vehicle in gear and accelerated suddenly and rapidly forward into the grass. He turned back onto the parking lot. Officer Powell had to jump out of the way at that point," Wale said.
Powell and Rice ran toward their cruisers parked near the exit.
"Mr. Andrew could have navigated around those cars and left," Wale said. "However, he chose to turn back towards the officers. He continued to accelerate hard, spinning tires and driving at the officers."
The two officers attempted to escape the path of the "4,500-pound speeding car" and separated, Wale continued.
The Trailblazer came directly at Rice.
"When patrolman Rice believed he could not escape, he turned and fired his service weapon at the vehicle. He fell in the process, which missed him by only a few inches," Wale said.
Thinking Rice had been run down, Powell also opened fire on Andrew "in an effort to stop the aggression," according to Wale.
"Only after patrolman Rice appeared to have been struck by the vehicle did Mr. Andrew steer away from him and towards a walking path to apparently make his escape. The suspect vehicle came to a stop on the walking path," Wale said.
Rice on radio indicated shots had been fired, and patrolman Anthony Poppe arrived on scene and assumed command, Wale said. The three officers had Pawelski exit the Trailblazer.
"The child only became known to the officers when the mother said the baby was in the car," Wale said.
Officers initiated life-saving measures on Andrew until a squad arrived. He was later pronounced dead at the Coldwater hospital, Wale said.
Mercer County Sheriff's Office and Coldwater and St. Marys police departments assisted on the scene.
Wale is confident a grand jury will find Powell and Rice justified in their actions, maybe later this month or in October.
"I believe their actions are justified," he said. "I went to the scene as soon as I got the phone call, made my observations at the scene, reviewed the video, reviewed officers' statements. It is my belief at this point in time they followed policy to the T, they followed the law. They were acting in defense of their lives and the lives of one another."