Investigators and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office have concluded an Upper Arlington police officer was not at fault for a traffic accident that resulted in the deaths of six people Oct. 18.
A four-month investigation by the Columbus Police Division’s Accident Investigation Unit determined a car carrying six family members had run a red light about 1:33 a.m. at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Fishinger Road and pulled into the path of a cruiser driven by Upper Arlington Police Officer Shawn Paynter while he was responding to an armed robbery.
Additionally, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien concluded that no criminal charges would be filed against Paynter stemming from the crash, which killed the driver of the Toyota Corolla, Eid Badi Shahad, 39, his wife, Entisar W. Hameed, 31, and their daughters, Shuaa Badi, 16, Amna Badi, 14, Ekbal Badi, 12, and Lina Badi, 2.
“After review of the cruiser video and the balance of the thorough investigation conducted by (the Perry Township Police Department), please be advised that there is no basis to file criminal or traffic charges arising from this incident,” O’Brien said in a press release.
Officials from Columbus’ accident investigation unit, the Upper Arlington Police Division and the Perry Township Police Department, which had jurisdiction over the crash, held a press conference Thursday morning, Feb. 20, to announce the findings.
The report noted Paynter, a 30-year-old officer who had just under six years experience with the UAPD, reached speeds of up to 86 mph as he drove north on Riverside Drive in response to an armed robbery and abduction at a McDonald’s at 1905 W. Henderson Road.
The report also stated Paynter had activated his cruiser’s emergency lights and sirens, and his speed was estimated between 45 and 49 mph at the moment of impact with Shahad’s vehicle, which was traveling westbound on Fishinger.
Columbus Police Sgt. Brooke Wilson, who conducted the investigation, said Shahad moved into Paynter’s path at the intersection despite having a red light.
“The Toyota took the collision ... right in the middle of the driver’s side,” Wilson said. “The Toyota has started to slow almost to a stop, but then he lifts off the brake and rolls through the intersection.”
Only Hameed, who was sitting in the passenger seat, was wearing a seatbelt, Wilson said. All six occupants were pronounced dead at the scene.
Paynter also was not wearing a seatbelt, Wilson said, but he credited the officer for a “remarkable” response and his attempt to pass the rear of the Corolla. The investigation concluded the officer had 0.033 second to respond to the vehicle pulling into the intersection.
“He managed to drop in excess of 30 miles per hour ... which probably saved his life,” Wilson said.
Upper Arlington Police Chief Brian Quinn said Paynter suffered head injuries from the crash but declined to provide more details. He added that Paynter was off the job roughly a month following his injuries and then returned to desk duty.
Paynter returned to street patrols “about three weeks ago,” Quinn said.
“Officer Paynter is not willing to address any of those (media) interview requests at this time,” Quinn said. “He struggles, but he’s doing as well as can be expected.
“I’m confident, he’s confident, that he was responding to a call for help. He’ll continue to struggle with this, my guess is, for the rest of his career, the rest of his life.”
According to investigators, the family was heading to its west Columbus home after spending the evening at a friend’s home on Willoway Circle.
The family, which had come to America from Iraq via Syria as refugees, reportedly had spent the evening of Oct. 17 at the Muslim festival of Eid ul Adha.
The investigation concluded Shahad had no alcohol or drugs in his system but speculated he might have been distracted due to the late hour or because children were in the vehicle.
Quinn said Paynter mourns for the remaining Shahad family members and noted the UAPD would conduct a full review of the matter to determine if the officer followed all protocol.