No charges for shooter of 13-year-old boy killed in Ohio
Megan Reed, mother of Sinzae Reed, speaks to the press on Jan. 1, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. | Screengrab via WSYX

COLUMBUS, Ohio—No murder charge will be filed against the killer of a 13-year-old boy following a grand jury hearing in which county prosecutors presented evidence that differed dramatically from all previous reports.

Kreig Butler, 37, faced potential prosecution for murder following the shooting death of Sinzae Reed in October 2022. Police accounts and local reporting at the time described Butler, who is white, as having exited a moving pickup truck to fire multiple shots at Reed, resulting in the death of the boy a short time later. Butler was identified by witnesses at the scene and arrested the following day.

Until this week, there was no indication that Reed was armed, although the Franklin County prosecutors accepted Butler’s claim of self-defense and released him without charge shortly after his arrest.

13-year-old Sinzae Reed. | Courtesy of the Reed Family

The lack of transparency from Columbus police and the clear injustice surrounding the release of the killer of an unarmed child caused an uproar in the local Black community, with Reed’s family members openly questioning the commitment of police and the city government to the safety of the community.

Now, a grand jury has declined to approve the murder charge against Butler after being presented with new testimony from witnesses produced by the police and the county prosecutor. According to new local reporting, at the time of his arrest, Butler claimed that Reed had fired a gun at him first and that witnesses at the scene would be able to corroborate his story.

Butler was unable to provide the names of these witnesses, but that did not deter police from conducting an extensive search of the local neighborhood on his behalf which eventually produced three witnesses who were willing to tell the grand jury that they had seen Reed fire a gun at Butler.

The prosecutor also produced testimony from local residents who had not seen the shooting but who had described the sounds of gunfire that appeared to come from multiple directions.

Finally, the police’s three star witnesses all provided consistent testimony that they had seen an unknown resident remove what they assumed was a firearm from Reed’s hand prior to the arrival of police at the scene.

No weapon or bullet casings were ever found at the scene. No bullet holes were identified in Butler’s truck or anywhere at the scene. There does not appear to be any physical evidence that Reed possessed a weapon of any kind.

Krieg Allen Butler, the man who shot and killed Sinzae Reed. | Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

Butler has admitted to having disposed of his own firearm in the aftermath of the shooting and has been charged with felony improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle and tampering with evidence. He is being held in Franklin County jail, and no court date has been announced on those charges yet. Butler does not appear to have been asked to explain why he felt the need to dispose of his firearm if he was acting in self-defense.

In the state of Ohio, a grand jury composed of nine randomly selected registered voters decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial for felony charges. Prosecutors have unilateral jurisdiction over the content and presentation of evidence presented to the grand jury. Grand jury hearings are closed to the public. The identity of witnesses and transcripts of the proceedings are not made public. It is the policy of the Franklin County Prosecutor to present evidence to a grand jury for all fatal shooting cases.

A representative of the Reed family, DeJuan Sharp, spoke with reporters after the hearing. “If you’re Black, you can die in any manner and no one cares. They had no gun ever found. There has been no gunshots, no bullet holes in Krieg’s car, no bullet holes in any building.”



David Hill
David Hill

David Hill is a member of the Mike Gold Writer’s Collective. He follows labor, LGBTQ rights, policing, and other issues. He is a member of the National Writers Union and Freelance Solidarity Project.