Deputy shot Windham woman after she refused orders, body cam video shows

Image of a deputy moving toward a woman with his gun aimed at her while she is standing in the entryway of a garage
A still image from the body cam footage released by the Garrettsville Police Department show the scene moments before a Portage County deputy shot and killed a woman he says was armed. Image via Garrettsville Police Department

At 9:32 a.m. on May 14, a Garrettsville police officer and a Portage County sheriff’s deputy responded to a 911 call about an armed woman trying to break into her neighbor’s house in Windham Township. 

Two minutes and 15 gunshots later, 66-year-old Cora Baughman was lying on the ground, shot twice through the chest and at least once in the legs by the deputy.

The scene played out in graphic detail in a body camera recording released May 24 by the Garrettsville Police Department. 

The video shows the deputy ordering Baughman to drop what she’s holding, and she refuses. Although the deputy never refers to a gun when speaking to her, the Garrettsville police officer does tell her to drop the gun. Anything she might have been holding is not identifiable in the grainy footage.

At one point, the deputy gives a final warning: “Drop it now!”

Off camera, someone, presumably Baughman, shouts, “No!”

Moments later, the deputy appears to fire 15 shots before placing the woman in handcuffs and administering first aid to stop the bleeding. She was pronounced dead shortly after at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center.

The shooting is under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, which reviewed two cases last year in which a Portage County deputy shot someone. Officers were cleared of wrongdoing in both cases.

The Portage County Sheriff’s Office does not equip its deputies with dashboard cameras or body cams, leaving the public and investigators at a disadvantage when sorting through the facts of a shooting. In this case, however, with few deputies in the area, dispatchers sent a nearby Garrettsville police officer to provide backup.

Warning: This video contains intensely violent content.

The videos from the camera on his chest and his dashboard confirm the 911 caller’s statement that Baughman was in his garage. There is never a clear visual indication that she has a weapon, though both officers appear to think she has one.

There has been no report of a weapon found on the scene, and Portage County Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski has not responded to requests for comment. 

A lawyer representing Baughman’s family and estate declined to comment on the video.

The interaction begins when Baughman appears through the open right door of the two-car garage.

“I’m here to try to talk to him,” she says.

The deputy, who had initially asked Baughman which house the disturbance was at, realizes she is the subject of the 911 call. 

“Come out here and let me see your hands now, come here,” he shouts.

Baughman comes slightly further out of the garage, as both officers move toward her and draw their weapons. Her hands are raised to her shoulders, and she is too far away to tell in the footage what, if anything, is in her hand.

“Drop it now,” the deputy said. “Drop what is in your hand now.”

He would ultimately repeat this command 11 times, always telling Baughman to drop “it” but never identifying the object until after she has been shot. He moves slowly with his weapon outstretched and pointed at Baughman, and as they get closer both officers run to take cover behind a pickup truck parked in the driveway.

“Drop it now. Ma’am, drop it, you will be shot,” the deputy says as he takes up a position looking over the bed of the truck.

The Garrettsville officer is the only one of the two to explicitly state that the item is a weapon, yelling, “Drop the gun,” as he moves to the front of the truck.

Baughman then says something that is difficult to understand in the recording as she turns and walks back into the garage. Later in the video, as more deputies arrive, the deputy tells his colleagues, “She said, ‘I’m walking in, I’m gonna shoot him.’ Then she pointed the gun at me, and I fired.”

Neither Baughman nor the deputy is visible in the body cam video as he fires the shots.

Both officers report over their radio that shots have been fired. The Garrettsville officer asks the deputy, “You got the gun?” The deputy, apparently distracted, does not answer the question. He later says he has not been hit.

The deputy orders Baughman to put her hands behind her back and handcuffs her, then he puts on gloves and begins to assess her wounds.

“She’s got multiple to the chest, to the leg as well,” he says.

The two begin to provide first aid, roughly two minutes after Baughman was shot, and another sheriff’s deputy arrives in the garage and assists.

In dashboard camera footage, an ambulance arrives at the scene at 9:46 a.m. EMTs enter the garage to help provide first aid, and officers help load Baughman onto a gurney.

“I am gonna call for a helicopter,” one of the paramedics says as he begins to tend to her. 

The officer wearing the body camera returns to his SUV, and calls Garrettsville Police Chief Timothy Christopher.

The Garrettsville officer is never seen to fire his weapon, and he repeated to several people on the scene, including Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski, that he didn’t fire any shots. 

Sheriff’s office deputies secure the scene and interview Baughman’s grandson, Aaron Baughman, who is listed as the only witness on the incident report. The neighbor who called 911 never appears in any of the footage.

At 10:04 p.m. deputies can be heard shouting across the lawn to the ambulance, trying to find out where Baughman will be flown to. The paramedics cannot be heard, but walking back toward the road says the life flight has been canceled.

The ambulance leaves with Baughman at 10:12 without its sirens on, nearly 40 minutes after she was shot.

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Owen MacMillan is a reporter with the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University, producing local news coverage in partnership with The Portager.