Prosecutor: U of A officer's 'use of force' justified

6:56 PM, Jul 10, 2013   |    comments
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 PDF Document: University of Akron Use of Force

AKRON -- Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh today released her office's finding that University of Akron Police Officer Aaron Burnette's fatal  shooting death of James Genda, 64 was justified.

Ohio law allows an officer to use deadly force when he has reason to believe he is in danger of serious physical harm or death.

Genda had spent lots of time in prison and jail. There was an outstanding warrant out for his arrest. Many of his arrests dealt with using incorrect license plates on cars he repaired..

He had recently told relatives he was not going back to jail and had a plan to force an officer to  kill him if he was ever pulled over.

Burnette, a 15-year veteran of the UA force, emptied his weapon after Genda pulled out what appeared to be a .45-caliber pistol. It turned out the weapon was actually a pellet gun.

Genda was pulled over on Wolf Ledges Parkway for improper registration because the license plates didn't match the vehicle Genda was driving, according to Akron Police Lt. Rick Edwards.

Genda was shot several times inside the car and died at the scene. Burnette was placed on leave following the shooting.

The incident was captured by a camera in an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles parking lot. A body camera, worn by Burnette, also shows the shooting.

"After reviewing the reports of investigation by officers from the University of Akron Police Department and the Akron Police Department, recorded interviews with witnesses and family members of James Genda, Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab reports and video and audio recordings of the shooting, my office has determined that Officer Burnette was justified in believing Mr. Genda posed a significant threat," said Walsh.

"I'm sure this has been a very difficult, emotional time for both Officer Burnette and Mr. Genda's family. My thoughts are with all of them."

Burnette is back on duty with the University of Akron Police Department.

He declined to be interviewed about the incident.

Previously, the Department had tried to fire Burnette for allegedly using excessive force and kneeing a suspect.

That issue was resolved in Burnette's favor.

The camera which clearly shows the incident is similar to those the Cleveland Police Department plans to buy for its officers.

Genda's family members told investigators they did not want Officer Burnette to feel bad about what happened.

The University of Akron thanked Prosecutor Walsh for her "careful, timely and comprehensive" investigation.


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