CANTON – The city released an unredacted police report Wednesday that includes the name of the officer involved in the fatal shooting of 46-year-old James Williams.
The incident report identifies Robert A. Huber, 37, as the police officer. He has been on administrative leave since the Jan. 1 shooting. His name has been circulating social media platforms.
Huber's attorney, Bradley Iams, declined to comment.
The city had for weeks refused requests by The Canton Repository, Williams' family and local activists to identify the officer publicly or release documents that would lead to his name being made public. City leaders argued that the officer is an uncharged suspect.
Lynn Rowe Larsen, an attorney for the Repository, sent a letter to city officials Tuesday saying a redacted report omitting the officer's name that was previously released to the newspaper violated Ohio's public records laws.
"The law in Ohio has been clear that a police incident report is not a confidential law enforcement investigatory record ... and so the exception for uncharged suspects is simply not implicated at all," she wrote.
Larsen cited a 2001 Ohio Supreme Court decision involving the Akron Beacon Journal and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office that said an incident report of a homicide "is not a confidential" record.
Canton Law Director Kristen Bates Aylward then released the unredacted police incident report Wednesday afternoon.
Williams was shot and killed on New Year's Day while firing an AR-15 into the air outside his house from behind a wooden fence. The officer fired through the fence to shoot Williams. The city has not denied that an officer fatally shot Williams.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation and will send a report to the Stark County Prosecutor's Office, which will determine if charges should be filed against the officer.
Steve Irwin, spokesman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said Thursday that the investigation had not been completed and is ongoing.
'We were not aware there was a different version.'
Bates Aylward said she knows the incident report is a public record but there were two versions, one of which she said she didn't know existed.
"We provided the version we were given. We made no redactions," she said Wednesday.
Bates Aylward said the Repository's lawyer insisted there was a different version, one with the officer's name on the report. And there was, she said, on the police computer system.
"We found there had been a redaction done before" the law department received the incident report, she said. "We were not aware there was a different version."
Bates Aylward said she "stands by" the other decisions not to name the officer because the investigatory records are protected under state law.
But she added that her office will be investigating the redactions from the incident report.
Who is officer Robert Hubert?
Huber, a native of Tigard, Oregon, has been with the city police department since 2013.
According to his personnel and civil service files, Huber has multiple commendations and a few traffic accidents — mostly him backing into parked vehicles.
Huber moved to Ohio to be closer to his wife's family. He completed the police academy at Kent State University in December 2010 and the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy in February 2011. He went on to work at the Smithville Police Department in Wayne County for a short period before he was hired as a corrections officer at the Wayne County Jail in January 2012. He worked there until he was hired by Canton police in April 2013.
Since then, he's earned commendations that include an award for saving the life of a drug overdose victim, stopping a woman from throwing her 4-year-old son out of a window and foiling an armed robbery.
Huber was issued a service award after an incident in which he reportedly shot a man in the leg during a foot chase on Shorb Avenue NW in July 2017 and then administered first aid until paramedics arrived. He won a Lifesaver Award and two Excellent Police Duty awards following three other incidents.
He also has been named in six internal affairs cases, two of which city attorney Kevin L'Hommidieu would not release on Wednesday, citing that he was an uncharged suspect in those.
Huber received a "letter of counseling" for striking a guardrail with the cruiser in May 2021 and one for failing to report off sick in time in September 2020, the internal affairs paperwork shows.
He was issued a "letter of training" when he left a bag of crack cocaine on the rear cruiser floor following an arrest and resulting seizure in April 2019.
And, he was issued "verbal counseling" in a use-of-force-related case in October 2019 when he tried to stop a man for a misdemeanor traffic violation. The driver didn't stop.
The paperwork shows that Huber pulled in front of the suspect's car, effectively stopping it, and then pulled out his gun. The driver refused to exit the car. Huber removed him from the vehicle and a struggle ensued. He was able to hold the man until backup arrived, the paperwork says.
Upon review, the sergeant noted that Huber had used a blocking technique reserved for felony suspects and he was advised not to do it again.
Canton Detective Bill Adams, president of the Canton Police Patrolmen's Association, said Thursday morning that the union has no comment on the release of Huber's name.
Family promising lawsuit
Colin Meeker, an Akron attorney representing the Williams family, released a lengthy statement Thursday afternoon promising to file a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit.
He also questioned "the transparency of the City of Canton" and chastised the city for not releasing the officer's name earlier.
"If this is what the Williams family and Canton community can expect from their local government, then we question the sincerity of the City’s handling of this matter, including the involvement of the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation," Meeker said in the statement. "The Williams family demands a fair, impartial, and unbiased investigation into the killing of James Williams."
Reach Benjamin Duer at 330-580-8567 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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This article originally appeared on The Repository: Police report confirms Canton officer's identity in Jan. 1 shooting