When Courtney Smith walked into a police station in suburban Columbus, Ohio, in 2015 to accuse her husband, Ohio State football assistant coach Zach Smith, of pushing her against a wall with his hands around her neck, she brought evidence. Police in Powell, Oh., collected a broken iPhone, two USB drives and a kitchen knife as they considered arresting Zach Smith on domestic violence charges. Courtney Smith also had saved threatening text messages, she told police, and kept photos of her injuries from prior assaults that she shared with Ohio State football Coach Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley, the Washington Post reports.
How did police in Powell — a quiet, affluent town of 12,000 that appears on lists of America’s safest communities — respond when the wife of an Ohio State football coach called for help? Powell police closed the investigation without charging Zach Smith; the department has declined to release the case file. Victims’ advocates think law enforcement agencies, as well as college athletic departments, have a poor track record of dealing with domestic violence. “I think the entire handling of this has been abysmal yet common. This is the status quo, and it’s a horrible status quo,” said Katherine Redmond of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. Powell Police Chief Gary Vest defended his department’s handling of the case, one of seven instances over three years in which his officers intervened in disputes between Courtney and Zach Smith. “We did not believe that the case would be prosecutable,” Vest said. “When there’s violence and violence can be proven, there will be charges. When it can’t be proven, then we have to kind of back up.”