Sunday, December 7, 1997
Outraged community mourns
fallen officers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Daniel Pope
Ronald Jeter
A man wanted on domestic violence charges shot two plainclothes Cincinnati police officers to death late Friday night as they attempted to arrest him, police say.

Officer Daniel J. Pope, 35, and Spc. Ronald D. Jeter, 34, were in the middle of their 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift when they went to a Clifton Heights apartment to serve a warrant on Alonzo Davenport.

Their guns were still in their holsters, and they apparently never had a chance to fire back when they each were shot at close range in the back of the head.

(93k gif)

Mr. Davenport, 20, the man police identified as the shooter, turned his gun on himself a few blocks away as two uniformed officers - unaware of their colleagues' shootings - gave chase.

The officers, who saw Mr. Davenport running with a gun, followed him to Calhoun Street and Jefferson Avenue, where he died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Two women and one man who were in the West Hollister Street apartment at the time of the shootings were questioned by police Saturday night.

Alonzo Davenport
Police later charged a female juvenile and Angela M. Mills, 23, of the 500 block of East 13th Street, with failing to report a crime, a misdemeanor.

The person who made a 911 call reporting the shooting was not charged.

Early Saturday, fellow officers, who placed black tape over their badges in their colleagues' memory, spent the morning hours at University Hospital and at city police districts trying to find comfort in one another. City officials also gathered to share their grief.

These are the first Cincinnati officers to be killed in the line of duty since the 1987 death of Clifford George, who was responding to a domestic-disturbance call when a man grabbed his gun and killed him.

Chief Michael Snowden, center, and somber police officials meet with the media Saturday morning.
(Gary Landers photo)
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"This is a tragedy that I cannot even begin to describe to you," Police Chief Michael Snowden said.

He told his troops, in a videotape distributed to every district, that it felt as bad as losing his son to a car accident in 1991.

"We feel like we've lost two of our children here," he said. "And we don't want to see this happen again. The main issue here is we have to go to work tonight, and this same situation could confront itself."

Chief Snowden told his officers to be on guard and not to tear one another up placing blame. And he told them he loved them.

Police also are conducting an investigation into whether radio communications were adequate. According to police records, two 911 calls regarding the police shootings came at 11:59 p.m., and the suicide was reported at 12:03 a.m. Police arrived on Hollister Street at 12:10 a.m.

In his videotaped message, Chief Snowden said he was notified at 12:20 a.m. that two officers were down.

However, dispatch records also indicate that fire/rescue personnel did not arrive on Hollister Street until 12:47 a.m. One dispatch log indicates police did not enter the apartment where the shootings occurred until 12:47 a.m.

Both officers were wearing bullet-proof vests. It's unclear, however, how they were met when they reached the apartment.

911 Call
Excerpt from 911 call made at 11:59 p.m. by Marvin Jones reporting that Officer Pope and Spc. Jeter had been shot:

  • Operator: Calm down and give me some information, O.K. If you're inside the house you're pretty safe. Do you see anybody?

  • Caller: No. They is dying, they is dying.

  • Operator: Who's dying?

  • Caller: The police! They is detectives! Please!

  • Operator: What do you see?

  • Caller: I see two undercover cops laying in front of my face, dead, they dead man!
  • ''There's a lot of confusion as to what happened last night,'' Chief Snowden said in the video. ''There's also a lot of rumors out there about certain people - communications section people, district people, supervisors, whatever - not doing the right thing. Again, we are looking into all of these issues. Give us an opportunity to look into that and find out the facts.''

    Before the Hamilton County prosecutor's office launches an investigation, the police division must complete its probe.

    ''There are a lot of issues to be resolved here and I have the utmost confidence in the homicide division and Mike Snowden . . . '' Prosecutor Joseph Deters said.

    ''I'm sure there's going to be a lot of investigation . . . '' he said. ''But whether policy and procedure were followed, whether a dispatcher did her job, is beside the point. You still have some derelict who was willing to kill cops.''

    City Manager John Shirey gave police credit for wasting no time.

    ''Obviously we put all of our resources to work immediately,'' he said, ''and I think it's a tribute to our police division that we were able to gather so much information so quickly on the perpetrators.''

    Wanted man

    The felony domestic-violence warrant that led Spc. Jeter and Officer Pope to Clifton Heights Friday night was one of seven warrants pending against Mr. Davenport.

    Officers will wear black tape over their badges for 30 days.
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    He also was wanted for violating the terms of an unrelated domestic-violence conviction, as well as for two counts of drug abuse, one count of passing a bad check and another charge of domestic violence. He failed to appear in court in August on a speeding charge, and a warrant was issued then.

    The felony domestic-violence warrant stemmed from an Oct. 20 confrontation with Bridget Blackmon, mother of one of his two toddler daughters, who complained he choked her and pulled her hair.

    The charge was upgraded to a felony because Mr. Davenport had a prior conviction in a March domestic case against Alana Strother, who was at the scene of the shooting Friday night and was being questioned by police Saturday.

    Mr. Davenport and Ms. Strother, mother of his other daughter, had quarreled Thursday night, neighbors said.

    Mr. Davenport's family gathered Saturday in his great-grandmother's Over-the-Rhine home to grieve and sort out what happened.

    ''I feel real bad for those cops and their families - they didn't deserve this,'' said Perry Jones, Mr. Davenport's father. ''But I'm hurting too, and I want some answers.''

    Sense of outrage

    Around the city, where mourners placed flowers by memorials, outraged community members looked for answers, too.

    Keenan Riordan prays for the slain officers at the Cincinati Police Memorial on Ezzard Charles Drive.
    (Gary Landers photo)
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    The flag at Cincinnati police headquarters flew at half-staff. Callers to a local radio show expressed their sympathy. Newspaper readers asked where to send donations.

    In Clifton Heights, neighbors who watched the police swarm their street overnight felt a mix of relief - that the alleged shooter was not at large - and lingering danger.

    ''I'm ready to go now. I'm moving,'' said Sherry Helton, 25, whose young sons' bedroom window looks out across West Hollister Street to Mr. Davenport's apartment.

    ''I can't have my kids living in a neighborhood where officers are getting shot,'' she said. ''After last night, I'm ready to go.''

    Mayor Roxanne Qualls, like all council members, offered condolences and sympathy.

    ''Their brutal deaths are a stark reminder of the dangers police officers confront daily,'' said Ms. Qualls, who arrived at the hospital about 2 a.m. and stayed until 6:30 a.m. ''They also are a reminder of the dedication, sacrifice and commitment to duty freely given to us by those men and women who serve and protect our community.''

    In police districts, officers hung their heads.

    This is the fourth time Fraternal Order of Police President Pete Ridder has had to deal with the killing of a fellow officer.

    ''It's going to be a tough time now,'' he said. ''People are always willing to jump on us when we're wrong. I would just ask the community now to honk their horn, wave, say thanks to a cop.''

    Support would be a comfort to those hit hardest.

    Cincinnati Police Sgt. Christopher Ruehmer was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene, where he saw his wounded colleagues, including Officer Pope, his best friend and a fellow 1991 graduate of the police academy, lying lifeless on the floor.

    As devastating as it was to find his body, Sgt. Ruehmer said being a witness is somewhat healing.

    ''I think I get a lot of satisfaction of having the personal first-hand knowledge and not having to rely on someone else telling me how he died,'' Sgt. Ruehmer said.

    'A wakeup call'

    With a complement of about 984 sworn officers, the Cincinnati Police Division makes about 45,000 arrests a year. In the last six years, officers in Cincinnati have been physically assaulted more than 1,500 times and fired upon at least 41 times.

    Each year in the United States, an average of 150 officers are killed in the line of duty, said Morton Feldman, executive vice president of the American Police Hall of Fame in Miami, Fla. In 1996, there were 138.

    Kristen DelGuzzi, Laura Goldberg, Kathleen Hillenmeyer and Lisa Donovan contributed to this report.

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    Hollister St. residents shocked