Just over two weeks have passed since local photojournalist Andy Grimm was shot by Clark County Deputy Jacob Shaw, and though Grimm is working toward recovery, the physical and emotional wounds have yet to fade completely.
Grimm discussed the events that occurred before, during, and after the Labor Day shooting—stating that he believes the incident to be “one horrible split-second decision,” but that his established relationship with Clark County first responders will continue to allow him to take an active interest in photographing their work.
“I have the best relationship with the first responders here in Clark County,” Grimm said. “Yes, we cover the tragic events but we also cover their positive stories like food drives and fundraisers as well. They appreciate that tremendously. At a fire three days before the shooting, the fire department let me ride up the ladder boom to get aerial pics of the devastation.”
Grimm said he will continue to photograph active scenes, even at night, as it makes for better reporting to physically be on-scene rather than work with bits of information from a police report—and although he was always cautious when arriving at active scenes, he said he will be sure to use deliberate caution now when approaching officers at work.
“If you are photographing law enforcement at night, the biggest thing is to make your presence known. I know that sounds counterintuitive to photojournalism, but you can make them aware of your presence without disturbing the scene,” he said. “I flashed my headlights that night, I waved to the deputy several times. I even waved right before I got out of the jeep. The absolute worst thing anyone can do is approach law enforcement from behind. I always approach from the side so that the officer and the other vehicles could see me.”
As for the daily recovery process, Grimm’s physical and emotional wounds are still very much making their presence known through infection and depression, but his three young children are thoroughly enjoying all the extra time with him during the process.
“Getting shot is no joke, it hurt bad!” Grimm said of his injuries. “Wound prep, skin care, packing the bullet wounds with gauze, this happens daily. Something as easy as bending over to grab my battery off the charger requires assistance.”
“I have been shooting a little bit to help my mental recovery and I still cannot ‘get low.’ The biggest change is being home all day every day, my children love it.”
In the wake of the shooting, several of Grimm’s photography bookings have cancelled—saying that they feel it best not to get involved in such an incident, though Grimm insists that he did nothing to deserve it—“I was doing my job,” he said.
“Add the depression in and I’m taking that pretty hard. The bullet holes got infected and I am in constant pain. The medicine helps but it clouds my thinking and that is almost as bad as the pain.”
Grimm sat down for a question-and-answer session with me this weekend to discuss the shooting as well as what he believes is needed to best-resolve the tensions that have arisen as a result. Because of the ongoing investigation into the incident, some of Grimm’s responses were limited, but he emphasized his desire for law enforcement and civilian community members alike to take away some sort of learning opportunity from what happened to him—although he is still trying to figure out what else he could have done to prevent himself from being shot.
How did you get to know Deputy Shaw before this happened?
“I cannot recall when I first met Shaw. I introduced myself at the Arnold Classic in Columbus earlier this year. We were both visiting as patrons. Well, I was attending as a photographer.”
Immediately after being shot, your first thoughts went to Melanie (Grimm’s wife), what did you want her to know at the time?
“When shot, I didn’t know what it was. It felt like an eternity before I hit the ground. Once I realized that yes, I was shot, my next thought was ‘Oh my God, what if I die?’ My life didn’t flash before my eyes, but the last six years definitely did. My children and my wife is all I could think about. I remember saying ‘Dominic,’ my son’s name. I never heard that on the body cam but I definitely remember begging for my wife to be notified. I just wanted to talk to her. I had no clue the severity of the injury at that time.”
Where was your father (New Carlisle News proprietor Dale Grimm) when it happened and how did he find out?
“My dad had just gone to bed. I told him I was going to photograph lightning and I would see him in the morning. He recalls hearing sirens but he knew I was close-by, so he just assumed that I would get the story. New Carlisle Fire Department paramedic Steve Schaefer let me use his phone to tell my dad that I was the story, as I had just been shot.”
What is your response to your children when they express concern about you continuing to photograph law enforcement officials in action?
“My children have had nightmares of me not coming home that night. I tell them that it was a bad decision that could have happened to anyone. I try to explain the risks of the real world to them. I definitely did not want them to be afraid of law enforcement.”
When you were shot, were you planning to photograph the lightning storm only, or did you intend to get some of the traffic stop as well?
“I left the office with the intent to photograph lightning. As soon as I left I saw the traffic stop. I remember cursing as I didn’t want to work anymore, I wanted to play in the storm. I never drive past a scene at night.....I always stop. Always. I am a fan of night photography. My hope was to get the lightning storm overhead and have the cruiser light up the foreground.”
Do you think other journalists across the country should exercise more caution when working around active scenes, or do you consider this to be an isolated incident?
“I have done this exact same thing hundreds of times to hundreds of different officers. Of course caution is exercised. Never approach law enforcement from behind at night. I always approach from the side so I can be visible to the officer and the perp. I try to make myself noticeable to ease the officers concerns.”
Where were your camera and tripod when you first felt the bullet enter your body?
“The camera was laying in the backseat of my Jeep already attached to the silver tripod. I grabbed it with my back to the deputy. As I was turning around I heard the first bullet graze my left shoulder then I felt the second bullet make entry just below my ribs. The camera was in my hand and the legs of the tripod were collapsed. I remember laying the tripod and camera down before hitting the ground. I was not going to let my camera get destroyed.”
Have you talked to Deputy Shaw or Sheriff Burchett since the shooting?
“I have not talked to the deputy since the shooting. I have spoken to Sheriff Burchett and her officers, but not in regards to the shooting. I mean, they wished me well and all those formalities, but we cannot discuss an active investigation. The Sheriff, Chief Deputy Russell, Majors Clark and Cox have been amazing through this. They tell me if I ever need anything that they are there for me.”
Despite your best intentions, you’ve taken some flak for telling Deputy Shaw that you didn’t want him to lose his job over this. Do you still feel that way, and how do you respond to the community members who have expressed such concern?
“I shouldn’t comment on Shaw directly, but I instantly felt bad for him. I knew the mess he would have to go through with the investigation and such. I can still have compassion for someone even after they just shot me.”
Since Ohio is a concealed-carry state, should a member of law enforcement be held to the same accountability as a civilian who mistakes his neighbor’s telescope for a weapon and opens fire?
“Absolutely. If anyone is ever going to pull a gun out, you had better have the intention of using it. If you use it, you had better be 110 percent sure that you were in danger. If you weren’t, then you must suffer the consequences of your actions. Personal accountability is something that I see missing in society today. Everyone wants to blame society, race, gender....rarely do you hear ‘I made a mistake.’”
You’ve said that Deputy Shaw shooting you was no accident, regardless of his intentions or the emotions he experienced afterward—explain.
“It was not an accident. The deputy didn’t accidently un-holster his weapon, he didn’t accidently turn the safety off, he didn’t accidently aim and he didn’t accidently pull the trigger. It’s absurd to say it was an accident. Do I think Shaw meant to shoot me? Not at all. But he meant to shoot what he perceived to be a threat.”
What needs to happen between law enforcement officials and members of the community in order to better move forward and put this in the past?
“Well I would like to know why this happened. I keep replaying the incident trying to see what I did wrong. I was hoping the body cam would show me doing something erratic. Nothing. I want people to understand that because this one deputy made one horrible split second decision, that not all deputies are bad.”