Deputies’ actions ‘justified’

By Glenn Battishill - [email protected]

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation has concluded its investigation into the June 6 deputy-involved shooting on Kilbourne Road and determined that the deputies’ actions were justified.

Pickaway County Prosecuting Attorney Judy C. Wolford was asked to serve as a special prosecutor to review the case, and in a letter she sent to the BCI and Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien, she laid out the facts of the incident that left a Sunbury man, Brian Puskas, 47, dead.

Wolford reported that authorities received a 911 call from Deanna Puskas, a woman living at 11390 Kilbourne Road, in Sunbury, who told dispatchers that her husband, Brian, had come home from work and was acting strangely and at one point threatened to kill her. In the 911 call, Deanna tells dispatchers that there are numerous firearms in the home.

Wolford wrote Deputy Zachary Swick arrived first on the scene where he found Brian Puskas in the front yard acting in an irrational manner. Throughout the situation, more deputies arrived on the scene along with Genoa Township and Sunbury police officers.

“It is clear from body camera video that numerous attempts were made to de-escalate the situation,” Wolford wrote. “Several officers tried to reason with Mr. Puskas and tried to get him to leave the yard and to discuss what was going on. Finally, it was determined that K9 officer Deputy Troy Gibson would release his K9, Cash, in an attempt to bite and subdue Mr. Puskas.”

Wolford wrote that Cash was released, but the K9 focused on a shirt in the yard and not Brian Puskas.

“This led to Mr. Puskas picking up a bag from the yard and extracting a handgun,” Wolford wrote. “At that time, three of the deputies, Dep. Swick, Dep. Gibson and Sgt. Robert Spring, discharged their weapons.”

The sheriff’s office reported that Gibson and Swick rendered first aid to Puskas, who died from his injuries.

Wolford wrote she reviewed witness statements, body camera footage, and other investigative reports and believed no charges should be brought against Swick, Gibson or Spring.

“I am of the opinion that this officer involved shooting was justified as the officers were in fear for their own lives, as well as the lives of other officers and Mrs. Puskas, once Mr. Puskas drew the handgun from the bag,” Wolford wrote. “As such, no charges should be brought against the three individuals who fired their weapons.”

Wolford added that “while everyone is saddened by the outcome of this incident, the officers worked diligently to try to reason with Mr. Puskas and bring this incident to a different resolution.”

“We value the preservation of life,” said Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin Friday. “And while we are grateful that the prosecutor has ruled the shooting justified, we do not celebrate the tragic ending of this incident.”

Swick, Gibson and Spring were placed on administrative leave immediately after the incident, per the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office’s policy, but the three men have since returned to active duty.

By Glenn Battishill

[email protected]

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.