Authorities have cleared two Guernsey County sheriff’s deputies of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Dwight Dearth, 73, after he fired at least one shot at those deputies during a standoff inside his Fairview home earlier this year.
The Tuscarawas County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to present the case to a grand jury after reviewing evidence and an investigative report completed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and investigation in the weeks following the incident on May 6.
"The evidence in this case was very clear," said Tuscarawas County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Miller, who was appointed to review the case by Prosecutor Ryan Styer. "The body camera footage in real time showed that after an hour with this gentleman, he (Dearth), imminently, threatened the lives of these two deputies.
"The deceased fired two shots at the deputies," Miller concluded.
Miller said it was those factors that led her to decline to present the case to a grand jury of the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court.
The identities of the deputies are not being released by The Daily Jeffersonian, as it is the newspaper’s policy not to identify individuals who are not charged with a crime. Neither deputy suffered injuries during the incident.
According to reports, the deputies were dispatched to Dearth’s Third Street home in Fairview after he fled from Barnesville Hospital upon being issued a "pink slip" by a doctor for mental health treatment.
Dearth reportedly left the hospital after refusing to be treated for mental health and medical issues.
A doctor speaking to The Daily Jeffersonian on condition of anonymity said he believes Barnesville Hospital staff and officers with the Barnesville Police Department didn’t do their jobs, leading to the death of Dearth after the "pink slip" was ordered.
"He was suicidal, and they let him walk right past security," the doctor said. "An emergency detention hold was ordered, and both the nursing staff and emergency room doctor were advised. It was a very clear order. He (Dearth) should have been tackled, because that’s the law.
"Then, Barnesville police officers came to the hospital, but they wanted to wait until all the paperwork was completed. It was a doctor’s order, but they wanted the paperwork. They just left. You don’t let a suicidal person leave the hospital."
A short time later, Barnesville police requested deputies check on Dearth’s well-being at his Fairview home.
The BCII report indicated deputies unsuccessfully attempted to communicate or negotiate with Dearth. They reportedly spoke to Dearth through a window screen on the front porch, as he refused to allow them to enter the home.
After speaking with supervisors at the sheriff’s office, the deputies determined they could not leave due to the mental state of Dearth and the order written by a medical professional. When deputies tried to continue negotiating with Dearth, he reportedly became "argumentative, disruptive and attempted to shut the window."
It was then deputies forced entry to the home through the window in an attempt to secure the resident.
"During the communication, Dearth made statements drawing concern for the deputies to feel Dearth was a threat to himself and/or others," said Special Agent Kevin Barbeau in his report. "Deputies forced entry into the residence where a shooting occurred and Dearth died from various gunshot wounds.
"It should be noted, Dearth retrieved a handgun and raised the firearm in the deputies’ direction upon their entry. During the crime scene investigation, it was determined Dearth fired at least one round from the firearm deputies observed in his possession while entering the residence."
This was supported by the casing and projectile collected on scene. The projectile and casing were confirmed by the BCII laboratory to have been from the same gun in the possession of Dearth.
The path of the projectile (fired by Dearth from a gun registered in his name) was determined to be in the direction of the windows where the deputies entered the residence.
An autopsy was conducted at the Licking County Coroner’s Office.
Dearth died as the result of "five (5) gunshot wounds to the torso with injury to the stomach, pancreas, small bowel and bilateral Gerota’s fascia." All of the shots were fired at the front of the deceased with rounds fired by both deputies striking him.
The deputies administered first aid until emergency medical personnel arrived at the residence. Dearth was pronounced dead at the home.
The case was reportedly closed by the BCII which investigated the shooting at the request of Guernsey County Sheriff Jeff Paden. The Tuscarawas County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the case for charges at the request of Guernsey County Prosecuting Attorney Joel Blue.
Both requests were made to avoid a conflict of interest and allow for independent, unbiased reviews.