GLASGOW – Video footage from last year appears to show that a sheriff’s deputy was shot as a then-Glasgow Police Department officer was striking a suspect with his handgun.
Barren County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joseph Ford survived the Feb. 23, 2019, incident but is still on medical leave and experiencing effects that could permanently impair his ability to return to work.
He told the Glasgow Daily Times on Thursday that he’s not quite ready to give up yet and still has hope, though doctors’ prognoses have not been positive. He still has paralysis in his left shoulder and upper arm area, he said.
Ford is seeking to be prepared in case his optimism isn’t enough, though. He and his wife are suing the city of Glasgow, the GPD, the officer whose gun fired, causing the injury, and the GPD captain who was a supervisor of the officer but has since retired. That civil lawsuit was filed this week in Barren Circuit Court.
“It’s a slow recovery process,” Ford said. “I had surgery a few months ago – five months ago now, so it is slow. It’s just a waiting game to see what will or won’t come back. There’s no guarantee on any of it, so it’s just one of those time-consuming, time will tell what happens next.”
Visible in video
The key video is from the camera worn by GPD Officer Trevor Morrison; it and other digital and paper records were obtained by the Glasgow Daily Times via open records requests over the past several weeks. The records obtained also include investigative reports from the Kentucky State Police. Until the criminal case against Jonathan Shelton reached its resolution, which occurred with a plea agreement last fall, almost all the records were withheld with an exemption from the Open Records Act cited that relates to ongoing investigations.
In a span of less than 45 seconds, the video shows now-former GPD Officer Zane Greer standing, with his gun in his right hand, outside the driver’s side of a PT Cruiser that had collided with the wall of a home after a chase that began on the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway. An arm extends from within that portion of the vehicle and Greer goes toward the driver. The angle changes and Ford is shown with his gun pointed toward the rear passenger window of the car, then putting it back in its holster and using his baton to break the window. Snippets of Greer’s activity with Shelton are visible and Ford appears at the front of the vehicle.
A struggle between Greer and Shelton is apparent, with Shelton’s hand visible on Greer’s arm at times, and Ford uses his baton to strike at Shelton several times from the other side.
At a point when Greer’s arm is free of Shelton, and another GPD officer begins to reach in low from behind Greer to grab Shelton’s hand or arm, Greer raises his own arm, with the gun in hand, and lowers it. A bang is audible, and Ford falls away from the vehicle.
The pursuit from the parkway had started with Greer, but as it headed into town, other units were alerted that assistance was needed, Ford said, and he was close so he responded.
He followed them onto the last street and into the driveway where the car had crashed.
“That’s whenever I get out and go to the passenger side. Officer Greer’s on the driver’s side dealing with the suspect in the car. I go to the passenger side as a support. I check and see if there’s anybody in the car. All I saw is the driver, and I had my gun, just to make sure there’s nothing – deadly weapons or anything, you know – and I see his hands, the suspect’s hands. … I saw both his hands, so that’s when I holster and go to a baton and try and get in the car. Couldn’t get in there, break through glass, try to get into, try to help Officer Greer and stuff. So the best option I seen was to go to the front of the car,” Ford said. “So I went around to the front. Like I said, it was crashed into a wall, and that’s when I decide to go on top of the hood of the car. [Shelton] was [at least partially] out of the vehicle at that point, and his back was more to me.”
The car door was open to the extent it could be in the confined space.
“I get up on the hood of the car and check everything out. There’s his head. I knew not to hit there because it’s deadly force, so I was looking for another spot, and then his upper torso, you know, right here under his arm, was opened up,” Ford said.
He said he told Greer to look out, “and we basically look at each other, and you can see that on the video, and he kind of steps back, and when he does, Shelton’s arm opens up even more, so that’s where I was hitting, right under his arm on his upper torso, making sure I’m not hitting him in the head or the neck or anything.”
After several strikes, Ford said, he could see Shelton’s demeanor beginning to change and he was about to assess what was going on as to whether the suspect was compliant.
“That’s when I caught, out of the corner of my eye, an object, you know, come up, and I kind of shifted my focus to it, and that’s when I realized that Officer Greer had something in his hand and was getting ready to strike or was striking down or something, and then the next thing I know, I’m, you know,” Ford said. “It’s kind of crazy that you can [be in] that close proximity but, I heard the gun. I could hear it. It seemed real distant, but I could hear the gun go off, and the next thing I’m in front of the car, you know, radioing dispatch that I’ve been shot. … From the time I get there to the time I’m down, it’s like a 40-second window.”
It seemed like it took a lot longer at the time, he said.
The only footage from Ford’s bodycam provided to the newspaper by BCSO was from after the shooting. He said when he got out of his car, he turned on his camera and heard the audible tone it makes when it’s powered on, so he thought it was on, but it didn’t actually start recording until after he’d been shot and was on the ground.
Greer, in a brief phone conversation with the Daily Times on Thursday, said he and Shelton “were fighting for my gun,” and he added that the suspect had a weapon, but he said he did not feel comfortable discussing any further details because of the pending litigation, of which he’d just become aware that day. He said the information would be available in the KSP report, which the Daily Times did not receive until Friday.
“It was a bad night. It was a bad night. Joseph Ford is a friend of mine,” Greer said. “Nobody knows how bad I hate this situation.”
Greer has worked for the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office since July 9, and was promoted to sergeant on Feb. 14.
No video footage from his bodycam was available. He said the light was red that indicated it was on. It had also malfunctioned two days prior to that, Greer said, and he had advised two of his other supervisors of that.
KSP Sgt. Adam Morgan interviewed Greer about the incident and Greer described checking a vehicle’s speed on the parkway, and after seeing that it was 115 miles per hour and increased to 118, he initiated a traffic stop. When the vehicle stopped after leaving the parkway at Exit 11 and Greer attempted to open the door of the vehicle, the driver locked it and Greer felt the vehicle go across his foot, so he began to strike the driver’s window, according to Morgan’s synopsis of the interview in his report. The vehicle continued into Glasgow.
Morgan states that Greer told him that when he made contact with the driver after the vehicle hit the house, he thought he saw a weapon in the driver’s hands and ordered the driver to show his hands but did not get compliance. He had his weapon drawn but did not fire because he wasn’t sure it was a weapon he had seen. When the driver still would not comply with showing his hands, “he punched him,” Morgan’s interview summary states.
The driver grabbed Greer in the groin and tried to grab his firearm, according to the report, which adds, “[Greer] struck him with the firearm. He also punched him again.”
Ford was stating that he had the suspect and Greer told him to get back, and that’s when the round went off and struck Ford.
“After Deputy Ford was hit, Zane stated he began striking the operator more and was able to take him into custody,” the report states.
It adds that when Greer first made contact, when he thought there might be a gun, the driver’s right arm had gone behind him and when it came back up, it was empty. Greer also specified “he struck the operator on the head with his firearm,” according to the report.
A .38 revolver was recovered by KSP from the front passenger floor, according to that agency’s documentation.
Jennifer Arbogast, who, at the time of the incident, was a captain who conducted the internal GPD investigation into Greer’s actions and who has since become chief of the department, declined to comment on the video because of the pending litigation.
Sheriff Kent Keen said that because KSP was handling the investigation, he had not seen the footage from GPD videos. He had invited Ford to be present for the interview as well as one of his detectives.
After viewing these excerpts, his initial response was, “To me, that’s pretty shocking. That’s the first time I’ve seen it. I don’t really know how to respond to you. It’s traumatic for me. The whole scene is very high adrenaline. Everything’s fast and threatening.”
He said that the event had a significant impact on the entire department from an emotional standpoint, aside from being down one person staffwise. The primary thing he said it helped him understand better was how small the space was in which it all transpired, because he had gone straight to the hospital in Glasgow and then in Louisville to be with Ford that night.
He said now that he’s seen it, he would give some consideration to whether any of his own department’s processes or procedures need revision, but he needed time to process what he’d just seen.
“That’s a pretty intense video. I guess my first reaction is try to encourage situational awareness more and where everything is at,” Keen said, adding that they already discuss it quite a bit.