Police Shot An Ohio Newspaper Owner. Now His Paper Is Going Out Of Business
Andy Grimm sits in a smoky, cramped newsroom in downtown New Carlisle. He’s antsy and nervous.
Just as he seems to be getting comfortable, a Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy drives by. Grimm peers out the window and waits until the deputy is out of sight to continue talking.
Chasing The Shot
On Sept. 4, 2017, Grimm left the newsroom of the New Carlisle Times, a weekly newspaper he co-owns with his father, to take photographs of lightning. He hopped in his Jeep Wrangler and headed north on Main Street. A few blocks later, he saw a police stop in-progress and stopped to take pictures for the paper.
He pulled into a downtown parking lot, got out of the car and pulled a camera tripod from his back seat.
“And as I’m turning, I hear ‘pop pop’ and then I take two steps, and I just drop,” Grimm says.
Grimm had been shot twice by Deputy Jacob Shaw, who told investigators he mistook Grimm’s tripod for a rifle. Shaw’s body camera footage captured the incident.
(Warning: This video contains language some people might find offensive.)
In March, a grand jury declined to indict Shaw, saying his reaction was reasonable since he thought Grimm had a gun.
Grimm calls Shaw’s explanation "preposterous," saying he flashed his headlights, waved at Shaw, and parked under a streetlight before getting out of his Jeep, which was parked 47 feet from Shaw.
A federal lawsuit from Grimm and his company blames the shooting on lack of training for Shaw. It seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
Community ‘Backs The Blue’
Grimm and his dad launched the New Carlisle Times 10 years ago, and started the Enon Eagle in nearby Enon not long after. While he says they weren’t getting rich, they were making money and getting by. It was a stable business he used to support his young family.
“We were just a weekly publication, but we did breaking news online," Grimm says. "And we were not only competing, but we were beating the big media for local news."
As bad as the shooting was, Grimm thought things would eventually get back to normal. But he says New Carlisle turned out to be what he calls a “back the blue” kind of small town, which lined up behind the sheriff's department. Grimm says his sources with the county and city dried up, and people who saw him on the street walked the other way.
At the same time, Grimm says he couldn’t return to the office. He had to do what little work he could from home.
“Dad couldn’t go out and sell (ads) and couldn’t get new advertisers," Grimm says. "Then we had carriers quitting. So my dad’s out there running routes."
Grimm says over the course of a few months, subscriptions fell by about 300 at each paper. Ad revenue dropped by $2,000 a week. Grimm declined to produce documentation of his losses because he says his finances are part of his lawsuit against the county.
Stop The Presses
With fewer people reading a paper with fewer ads, and less news because of alienated sources, Grimm and his father decided to cease publication of the New Carlisle Times and the Enon Eagle. They released their final issues on December 5. Both continue as online publications only.
Grimm says he doesn’t know where they’d be today if the shooting never happened, but he says they’d definitely still be publishing.
He says a lot of people tell him, “This is what happens when you sue the county.” He finds that ironic since he initially declined interviews with the media, including WOSU, because he “didn’t want to be the face of the anti-cop movement.”
“I stopped doing the interviews because I saw that happening," Grimm says. "But little did I know that while we were having those conversations, they were plotting against me. Like, to destroy my character and my credibility.”
When Grimm talks about the plot to "destroy my character," he's referring to statements from the Sheriff’s Office that emerged during the criminal investigation.
Two Clark County Sheriff’s Office sergeants and a deputy told investigators about concerns they’d had about Grimm and his presence at police stops in the past.
According to records obtained by the Associated Press:
- Deputy Nick Moody told investigators he wasn’t comfortable with Grimm’s approach in January 2017 while conducting a traffic stop. He said the driver of a van, later identified as Grimm, slowly “circled his location twice” before stopping. Grimm claims he circled the deputy to let him know who it was so he wouldn’t worry.
- Sgt. Ralph Underwood said he warned Grimm after the photographer arrived at a deputy’s traffic stop about two years ago and took pictures, with the deputy expressing concerns about the incident.
- Major Andy Reynolds told investigators “other deputies have expressed issues with Grimm,” though he couldn’t identify them.
Officials with the Clark County Sheriff’s office declined an interview request for this story and referred questions to Columbus law firm Isaac Wiles.
In an email, the law firm said: “The Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Shaw regret this accident; however, we do not agree that Deputy Shaw’s actions—responding to a perceived threat of a firearm—were unreasonable under the circumstances.”
In response to Grimm’s claims that they ceased communication with this newspaper, the statement said: "The Clark County Sheriff’s Office continues to provide the New Carlisle Newswith advance notification of law enforcement events. For example, on November 9th, the owner of the New Carlisle News, Dale Grimm, was invited to ride along with Major Cox during a joint law enforcement operation in Clark County. On October 4th, Andy Grimm was personally notified by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office of a grain bin collapse.
"Mr. Grimm’s claim that the Clark County Sheriff’s Office retaliated against him is not supported by the facts," the firm concluded.
The Sheriff's Office placed Shaw on leave during the criminal investigation, but he's since returned to work.
Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.