How much longer will the public be kept in the dark about the fatal shooting by Wood County sheriff's deputies of a 32-year-old man outside his mother's Lubeck home on March 18?
The shooting occurred during the night of March 17-18, and on April 25 Prosecutor Jason Wharton said the deputies had not been fully exonerated even though Sheriff Jeff Sandy had returned the three still-unidentified deputies back to active duty, saying an internal investigation had cleared them of violating any departmental regulations or policies.
When repeatedly asked about the progress of the alleged investigation by State Police into the shooting, Wharton repeatedly said it was not concluded.
Then on July 11 Wharton finally confirmed the investigation was completed and he would present the case to the grand jury for consideration, but he would give no date when the case would be so presented.
So, now it's five months since deputies killed Jody Wilson and still the people of Wood County have no idea what the alleged investigation revealed, who was involved in the shooting, whether the deputies were justified in the shooting, if Wilson was "high" on bath salts as the sheriff alleged, if an attorney who previously represented Sandy was summoned to the scene to counsel deputies before the prosecutor was called, if Wilson was armed as Sandy has alleged, if Wilson pointed and fired a shot at the deputies, if one of the deputies was a "rookie" and possibly should not have been put in a life-or-death situation at that point in his field training.
Wilson's mother contends deputies never identified themselves, never tried to talk to her son and never told him to drop his weapon before they opened fire on him. She contends her son never fired on the deputies.
The News and Sentinel has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the State Police investigation, but, as expected from the State Police, it was denied on the purported basis the case was still active.
There are those in the public who question how much politics is being played in this case. Is it a political hot potato with the general election fast approaching in November? Is there a political reason why the investigation took so long and the case is so slow going before the grand jury? Are the political entities involved waiting until after the election to present the case, fearing what a grand jury might determine?
Who is protecting whom in this tragic shooting?
The public continues to deserve to know what happened the night of April 17-18 when deputies, state Division of National Resources officers and state police responded to a 911 call-which Wharton refuses to release-of a man possibly high on bath salts and possibly being armed.
The public continues to deserve to know whose account of the incident to believe.
The public continues to deserve to know if the deputies acted within the scope of their authority on the night of the fatal shooting or if the county has three deputies on the payroll who acted in haste.
The public continues to deserve to know if the sheriff cleared the deputies of violating department policy without having all the investigatory facts.
The public continues to deserve to know which deputies were involved in the fatal shooting so the public can evaluate any future contact with those deputies.
Finally last week Wharton stated via email that he would be presenting the case to the next grand jury, which meets the second week of September. I'll believe it when it happens. Until then, for this case to take more than five months to conclude is an insult to the public's intelligence and a travesty of justice.
Contact Jim Smith at email@example.com