Columbus, OH

Admitted Shooter Of Teen Still Not In Custody

Kreig Butler (Left) and Sinzae Reed (Right)Photo by(The Rooster)

"We are aware of the community’s concerns regarding the investigation and want to ensure the community that this investigation is far from over. The detectives assigned to the case are working diligently to present a complete and thorough investigation to the Franklin County Prosecutor. We ask for patience during this time. Once we are able to provide more information, we will. We have promised transparency and will continue to provide information when it can be released." That was a statement from police in Ohio. Their statement came on the heels of public outcry after 36-year-old Krieg Butler was released from police custody. All witness accounts, and Butler himself, have made it known that he shot and killed a 13-year-old boy in broad daylight. So why was he released? This is the case of Sinzae Reed.

The Wedgewood Village Apartments reside on the west side of Columbus Ohio. For its residence, the area has carried with it a bit of a sad history. Drugs, shootings, and homicides have been a mainstay in the lives of those who call the community home. But when 13-year-old Sinzae Reed was shot and killed at the apartment complex last October, his death would have nothing to do with the aforementioned ills of the community. Instead, it would be indicative of a new and concerning trend that is making its way across the country as a whole. Krieg Butler, a 36-year-old white man, claimed that he shot 13-year-old Sinzae Reed because he feared for his life. He claimed that it was all in self-defense.

Sinzae Reed was born to Megan Reed and Louis Snowden at Grant Hospital on August 17, 2009. Megan described her son as a “goofy” baby who would grow up and mature into what she called the family guardian. He was particularly protective over his baby sister. Early in life, Sinzae expressed interest in becoming a boxer, and then in being a football player, something Megan discouraged due to her son’s small frame. “He was a picky eater, and I think that’s why he was so small,” she said. “When I used to take him to doctors' appointments, he was never gaining weight, and I’m like, ‘I know I feed my kid,’ but he was also tall.”

Sinzae had his share of struggles as well. He wasn’t the strongest student and lagged in school until he finally discovered his footing by taking online courses with KIPP Columbus. And then there were the conditions at Wedgewood, where the family moved in 2017. The time that they moved there was marked as a particularly violent time in the history of the troubled West Side apartment complex, which was the site of seven murders between January and August of that year. “Someone could have a mental breakdown living out here. It's an overload on your heart, on your mind,” a resident of the complex said. “A lot of people become immune to it and learn to live with the circumstances they're in, and some people are comfortable with that. Then some people aren't, like me. There's no comfort here.” On that tragic day, the violence would strike again.

On October 12, 2022, court records state that Krieg Butler drove up to the Wedgewood Village Apartments in a red truck. He stopped his vehicle and exited the car. That is when he got out of his truck and proceeded to fire several shots all aimed at Sinzae Reed. Right after the horrifying ordeal, he got back into the truck and fled the scene. “Someone came to the door and told me Sinzae was shot, and by the time I got over there, the police were already doing CPR,” Megan Reed, Sinzae’s mother, said. “When we got to the hospital, they came in and told me he got shot in the chest and it’s not looking good. And I told them to let me in there so I could talk to him, and when I went in there, that’s when they called his time of death. And I picked up his hand, and that’s how I saw the bullet in his hand, because he got shot in the hand, too. And it was a big bullet, because I saw it, I felt it, I looked at it. … But he got shot in the right side of his chest, it hit his left lung, and came out the bottom of his back on the left side.”

Within 48 hours of the shooting, Butler was arrested by Columbus police. He was then charged with murder by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office and held on a $1 million bond. Then, something horrible happened. On October 19, 2022, all of the charges against Butler were dismissed. The bond was also removed, pending an investigation, and Butler would claim that he did all of this in self-defense. That defense, as we mentioned before, has become a dangerous reoccurrence for black communities in America. Prosecutors in Ohio said self-defense claims have increased since the spring of 2021 when Ohio became one of the latest states to adopt a “stand your ground” law, which removes the duty for someone to retreat before using deadly force if they fear for their life. The first stand-your-ground law was adopted in 1994 in Utah, but the idea really took off after it was passed by the Florida legislature in 2005. The law became a national topic of debate after the murder of Trayvon Martin. By 2011, Stand Your Ground was the law in 23 states.

But then came the polarizing year of 2020. Not only were there the heated disagreements over how to handle the coronavirus pandemic but there was also what some referred to as a racial reckoning following the videotape of Minneapolis police officers murdering George Floyd. All of a sudden Ohio, North Dakota, and Arkansas all signed on to have stand-your-ground laws, bringing the national total to 30. Another eight states have court decisions that recognize variations of stand your ground. There are some experts in academia that say stand your ground’s spread across America, in addition to other measures that make it easier for gun users to claim they acted in self-defense, is driven in part by white fear of Black citizens. “How many times do you hear, ‘Security, safety, security, safety,’ and ‘You’ve just gotta protect your homes,’ ” said Carol Anderson, the chair of African American Studies at Emory University. “ ‘You’ve gotta protect your wife and your children.’ You keep hearing this and the threat is Black.

Butler’s claim could grant him greater protection under Ohio’s “stand your ground” law, which removed the requirement to retreat in public before firing a weapon, in addition to shifting the burden of proof for self-defense. “The law used to require the defendant to prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence, placing a more reasonable burden on them to show that they were in fact acting in self-defense,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. “Now the state has to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. ... Prosecutors across the state are struggling with these cases and as we predicted, the law is resulting in injustices. It should be changed.”

Thaddeus Hoffmeister, who is a professor of law at the University of Dayton, said that the potential difficulties prosecutors may face in trying to disprove self-defense in “stand your ground” cases could lead to fewer murder indictments. That is because it is so hard to prove to a jury that a person didn’t have a reason to fear for their life. Prosecutors would most likely opt to offer more plea deals so they can bypass the trials and grand juries in the hopes of securing more convictions. Franklin County First Assistant Prosecutor Janet Grubb, the person leading the office's criminal division, said she put out a call to prosecuting attorneys statewide. She learned that nearly 75 percent of those who responded said that the stand-your-ground law had impacted their ability to get convictions. “I think it has altered our consideration of matters,” Grubb said. “And by necessity, it alters how grand jurors then turn around and look at cases. Without going into too much detail, I can think of several cases where the fact that ‘stand your ground’ is present has potentially altered whether or not an indictment has been returned.”

Something that should help the case of the prosecutors though, is that Butler was actually on parole at the time of the shooting. He had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic in 2019 and served a few months in jail. What’s important to note is that, in Ohio, people convicted of domestic violence are not allowed to own a firearm under federal law. However, Ohio doesn’t really restrict firearm possession in the cases of misdemeanors. Upon Butler’s release, the Columbus police issued a statement in which the department said that it was still awaiting key ballistic and forensic evidence. They assured the public that, that once the investigation was complete, the information would be turned over to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, which would then determine whether to present the case to a grand jury. Since there is no statute of limitations on murder in Ohio, there is not a legal time crunch at play here. There is just public confusion and uncertainty.

Five months have passed since Butler’s release. There has been little new information about the case released to the public. Officials have released no information about why Butler fired on Sinzae, and there’s been no indication Sinzae had a weapon or anything to make Butler feel that his life was in danger. Sadly, that hasn’t stopped the narrative from being pushed. The claims that Sinzae was armed and that Butler acted in self-defense have even been pushed by at least one Columbus police officer. That is despite no evidence having been released publicly to that effect. On his podcast “Thoughts of a Patrol Officer,” Officer Spencer Badger brought up the possibility that Sinzae may have been armed and that Butler had indeed acted in self-defense. "I think it's highly likely that Sinzae had a firearm and was shooting at Butler,” said Badger, whose name and affiliation with Columbus police do not appear in the video. “I believe strongly that the information I'm presenting you today will be eventually released to the public.” Sergeant David Scarpitti, a public information officer for the Columbus Division of Police, said in a statement that he understood concerns about the officer’s comments. He stressed however, that the comments in no way represent the department’s official stance on the case, but that it was his belief the clip did not fall outside of the department’s current social media policy.

Meagan also remembers fearing the way in which some members of the public would attempt to skew the perception of her son from victim to thug or aggressor. “When we had to start wearing masks during COVID, he took advantage of that, and he wore them every single day,” she said. “And I kept telling him, ‘You know, when people look at you they’re not going to see the cute little boy you are.’ They’re going to say, ‘He’s a thug. He’s a gangster.’ And that’s how people are looking at him now”. Meagan is correct. After Sinzae’s murder, a photo of him got a disproportionate amount of attention among certain media circles. The photo in question shows Sinzae wearing a mask and making a W with his right hand. The W was in reference to the West Side of the city where he was born and raised. As one could imagine, that photo was blown up to imply that Sinzae was violent and gang affiliated.

DeJuan Sharp of Columbus Downtownerz, one of several groups of organizers that have been working in coordination to support the Reed family in the months since the shooting, expressed just how frustrating this cycle has become. “I feel like it’s something every Black male goes through: You’re born, and you get told you ain’t shit all your life. And then you start to believe you ain’t shit, and you start to act like you ain’t shit,” Sharp said. “But then, if you’re blessed and you get a little bit older, you start to feel the pride in yourself, which leads to a pride in your community. And you become a better individual. But you’re not equipped with those skills from birth. None of us are.”

Sinzae’s mother has also publicly lamented the waiting game that it feels like she has had to endure because of the lack of communication from the investigators. “First, we had to wait to get the autopsy back. We got that. And then we have to wait for the ballistics to come back,” Megan said. “It’s all just a waiting game. They want to have some reason to let Krieg go, that’s how it feels to me. And he’s still walking around here, free, living his life like everything’s fine.” The prosecutor on the case said the case is still under review and pending further consideration. To this day, we are still waiting for justice in the murder of Sinzae Reed.

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

Downstate NY writer.

Hicksville, NY

More from B.

Comments / 0