It has been six months since a Black teenager was shot to death within feet of his home in Columbus, Ohio, and prosecutors are still investigating whether his admitted killer should be charged.
Sinzae Reed’s family and the community remain frustrated months after the 13-year-old was gunned down in October at the Wedgewood Village Apartments. In what activists and the family say seemed like an open-and-shut homicide case, behind the scenes, prosecutors have been reviewing the police’s investigation records to determine if the evidence is strong enough to present to a grand jury and effectively dismantle Krieg Allen Butler’s self-defense claims.
There’s a desensitization to tragic violence in this community, where residents say they’re used to officials’ inaction.
Ramon Obey II, co-founder of J.U.S.T. (Justice, Unity, and Social Transformation), a biweekly community service effort in Columbus, says that the community is still fired up about getting justice for Sinzae.
“People are beyond tired at this point,” Obey said. “Truthfully, I have absolutely no idea what more they could be looking for. They have enough evidence to prosecute him three times over as far as I’m concerned.”
During the early evening on Oct. 12, 2022, Sinzae was shot twice — in the hand and a fatal wound to the chest. When Columbus police arrested Butler, 36, the next day, he admitted being the shooter. But when Franklin County prosecutors learned that Butler, who stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds, said he acted in self-defense, the murder charge was tossed and Butler was released from jail as investigators went back to the drawing board.
None of the police documents mentioned recovering any weapons from Sinzae, who weighed 128 pounds and was 5-foot-8.
“The city of Columbus has shown very little effort to care or show any form of empathy to Sinzae’s family, as no new evidence has been found to show anything other than the guilt of Krieg Butler. We find the process to be unjust,” Obey wrote in a message to Capital B.
Capital B has attempted to contact Sinzae’s mother, Megan Reed, but has not heard back. But in a recent interview with multimedia platform Andscape, she questioned if the investigation would be different if her son was white.
“If it was the other way around — and Sinzae had shot Krieg — you think they were going to let him go because he said self-defense?” Reed rhetorically asked. “No. He’d be in there to this day.
“Or if Krieg was a Black man and Sinzae was white and he would have said self-defense, they wouldn’t let him out. But Krieg is white. He’s out. Because if you’re white, they can get the benefit of the doubt.”
Ohio’s recently enacted stand-your-ground law has been a topic of debate throughout the state, with some concerned that it could be misused, giving people who kill a potential ticket to freedom, community advocates said.
When Capital B learned about Sinzae’s death, we wanted to know as much information as possible about the case: specifically, how anyone could shoot someone, admit it, and have their charges dropped simply because they claimed self-defense — and then go six months without any sign of an indictment lingering.
Capital B submitted a public information request on Jan. 20 for the 911 calls to see if there was any information investigators received that day that could cast doubt on the shooter’s identity. The request was fulfilled on March 22. Most of the 11 calls were anonymous, but one of the anonymous callers described and named Butler as the shooter.
Columbus police said they wrapped up their investigation at the end of February. Sinzae’s case has been added to the police’s homicide/cold case unit archive, where links are included to ask the public to “help us solve this case, and bring justice to the family of this victim.” Prosecutors said that as of April 10, “the matter is still under investigation and review.”
Dejuan Sharp, a spokesman for Sinzae’s family and founder of Columbus Downtowners, a grassroots organization, says there will be a memorial service Wednesday, April 12, at 5 p.m.
“We are hoping that these community events and protests may renew the interest in Sinzae’s case,” said Obey, whose organization has been leading a campaign to start a residence council in the Wedgewood community.