COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Three Columbus police officers are facing misdemeanor charges Wednesday for their alleged actions during protests Downtown last summer.

The charges stem from a independent investigation, led by prosecutor Kathleen Garber and investigator Rick Wozniak, related to police response and actions during protests after the death of George Floyd in particular and against police brutality in general.

The officers being charged are:

  • Officer Traci Shaw, with three counts each of assault, dereliction of duty and interfering with civil rights. Shaw is accused of pepper-spraying individuals who were walking away from the protest area.
  • Sergeant Holly Kanode, with one charge each of falsification and dereliction of duty. Body camera footage shows Kanode assisting in the arrest of a protestor and telling another officer that the person grabbed a third officer and jerked him to the ground. Other video did not show this happening.
  • Officer Phillip Walls, with two counts each of assault, dereliction of duty and interfering with civil rights. Body camera footage shows Walls pepper-spraying protestors who are standing on a sidewalk. Click this link to watch the footage.

All three have been placed on administrative duty pending resolution of their cases and will undergo an administrative review once the cases are completed, according to a news release from the police division.

Columbus police officers Traci Shaw, left, and Phillip Walls

An attorney representing the three said each will plead not guilty and that he believes they are being used as “scapegoats.”

“We’re very disappointed with the charges, that these three are scapegoats for a division of police chain of command that had no idea what they were doing during these protests and riots,” attorney Mark Collins said.

A statement from the Capital City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police defended the three and said, “We believe the officers acted appropriately within the scope of their duties.”

Mayor Andrew Ginther criticized the city’s response to the protests in a statement and said that “officers who break the law should expect to be held accountable.”

“While we were quick to make changes to our approach to nonviolent demonstrations – including use of force and chemical agents – the fact is some Columbus police officers acted outside policy, abused their authority and may have committed crimes,” Ginther said. “That is why we engaged independent investigators to determine whether criminal charges should be filed, and today we got the answer.”

Since the protests, Ginther has replaced police chief Thomas Quinlan with Elaine Bryant — the first outsider to run the division — agreed to an independent review of police actions and asked the federal Justice Department to investigate. Also, a federal judge blasted police in April in issuing a temporary injunction over its use of force.

Public Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. said the independent investigation is not yet over. And Garber likewise said she and Wozniak “will continue to work to identify additional officers who may have committed misconduct.”