A slain Massillon man’s legacy hinges on whether a federal judge will accept testimony contradicting a police department’s ruling that an officer was justified in shooting the man during a 2013 standoff.
Shane Ryan, 28, was shot and killed by Canton SWAT Sgt. Charles Saler, according to court documents. Police said Ryan, who had a history of mental illness and had threatened suicide shortly before his death, was holding a woman hostage at a Massillon Great Clips salon. He told police he would ignite the building’s natural gas line with a disposable lighter — which police had traded him in exchange for weapons in the room.
Saler, who could not be reached for comment, testified in a February deposition that he only opened fire on Ryan because he was threatening the hostage. He said he shot Ryan in the side to subdue him, but it only made Ryan tighten his grip on the woman’s neck. That’s when he said he shot Ryan again, this time striking him near the temple.
“He had attempted to spin light the lighter. He had stated his intentions to blow us up and kill the hostage. He had her in close proximity,” Saler testified. “I don’t know what else he had in his hand. I also know that he can do serious physical harm with his hands.”
But Saler’s testimony was contradicted by another SWAT officer, Kervin Brown, who told his superiors in a recorded 2013 interview that he heard Saler’s two gunshots after he and another officer had already rescued the hostage.
“I grabbed her by the arm, another officer grabbed her by the arm, we’re taking her out of the building,” he said. “At that point I heard two shots. We get her out, passed her to a couple female officers, go back to see if we can assist the SWAT team. At that point, you know, he’s down — they’re letting us know, suspect down, shots fired, you know, the whole nine.”
Attorney William Walker, representing Ryan’s family, argues U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi should rule Ryan’s death was wrongful.
“Ryan was dearly loved by his children, his parents and his siblings. Ryan’s future was cut short, never to reach its full potential, and his children were deprived of their dad,” Walker wrote in a motion for summary judgment. “Ryan’s unjustifiable death is nothing short of a tragedy.”
Attorney Gregory Beck, representing the city of Massillon, argued in court documents that Walker was attempting to misrepresent what happened that day.
“Plaintiff’s attempt to mislead the court by manipulating the facts cannot be ignored,” he wrote.
Walker declined comment for this story. Beck and police chiefs for Canton and Massillon could not be reached.
The judge has not yet ruled on the motion for summary judgment.
WKYC (Channel 3) in Cleveland reported that the police administration withheld the contradiction in police reports from a grand jury when the case was suggested for prosecution. Police allegedly said they would “gloss over” the contradiction to avoid “opening Pandora’s box.”
Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGluntABJ.