Sunday, December 14, 1997
Funerals over, police seek facts

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Last week's funeral services for two Cincinnati police officers slain while delivering an arrest warrant provided some closure for grieving relatives and community members. But police and community leaders agree that some hard questions remain to be answered.

For the police, investigators intend to determine exactly what happened the night of Dec. 5, when Alonzo Davenport shot Officer Daniel Pope and Specialist Ronald Jeter to death in Mr. Davenport's Clifton Heights apartment.

And for the community at large, police and city leaders question whether last week's events will cool racial tensions or fan them.

Leslie Isaiah Gaines, an evangelist and former judge who spoke Saturday night at a memorial service for the slain officers and for Mr. Davenport, said the community must follow the example the officers set in their work together.

''God has so ordained that one be black and the other white,'' Mr. Gaines said before the service. ''He brought them together in death so you and I can live together in life. Together we must live our lives so that the lives of Officers Pope and Jeter were not lost in vain. We must live up to the legacy of brotherhood they left.''

Last week was a marathon of mourning, with visitations or funerals scheduled Tuesday through Friday. Hundreds of officers attended, postponing intense inquiries into the shooting as officers paused to pay tribute to their fallen peers.

Now as the community continues healing, investigators will target the unanswered questions.

''The big question is: Exactly, to the best that we can reconstruct, what happened?'' police spokesman Lt. Tim Schoch said. ''These officers were well-trained and were two of our very best officers, so it remains to be seen how the Davenport subject was able to murder both officers.''

Investigators also need to determine whether all involved - slain officers, responding emergency workers, police dispatchers - followed proper procedures, he said. It took about 45 minutes after the first 911 call reporting shots fired before officers responded to the West Hollister Street address where the two officers were slain.

''We need to make certain to the best of our human ability that this situation never happens again,'' Lt. Schoch said. ''But the larger question is: How many Davenports are out there? That may be a question we can't answer.''

That's a question police veterans hope won't hypnotize younger officers.

''A tragedy like this is a great dose of reality for the younger members of the division, because it causes a lot of anger and fear,'' said Capt. Tom Streicher, division 1 commander.

''Fear may cause them to hesitate, and anger may cause them to overextend themselves or take risks they shouldn't take. Our real challenge now will be to help the young cops override those feelings.''

Some established memorial funds or attended funeral services. Others bought flowers and placed them anonymously at memorial sites. Still others have donned blue ribbons, including several who will hand out ribbons at today's Bengals game.

Since learning of the shootings, the public has rallied to the support of police - a response rooted in respect, one psychologist says.

''Policemen are our protectors and our shield - we have a sense that they're invincible,'' said Dr. Lori Rand, a psychologist in Sycamore Township. ''But with the knowledge that two of them were not invincible, these deaths have penetrated into the community's sense of well-being. There's a disbelief and outrage that those who we hold very dear in a community sense could be murdered.''

Some say that outrage has eased - at least temporarily - racial tensions between police and some community members.

But others say tensions remain.

''There are a lot of ill feelings right now, a lot of uncertainty, and that makes for a dangerous atmosphere,'' said Minister Abdul Muhammad Ali, National Black Unity Coalition chairman.

The coalition held a service Saturday night at Hirsch memorializing the slain officers and Mr. Davenport, a move some blasted as insensitive.

''There's absolutely no way I could express any concern for the individual who was responsible for doing such a terrible thing,'' Lt. Schoch said of Mr. Davenport.

But Mr. Ali said the joint service was a crucial step toward forgiveness and healing, because the officers' and Mr. Davenport's mourners shared a common pain. The service was held at Hirsch Community Center in Avondale.

Mr. Gaines, the keynote speaker at the service, agreed.

''To hear those bagpipes after the funeral service, to see this ocean of red and blue lights flashing, to hear the bell tolling, to see the fire trucks extending their ladders as a stairway to heaven - those are sights and sounds I pray I will never see again but know I'll never forget,'' Mr. Gaines said before the service.

''I just hope this whole tragedy will do something to open the lines of dialogue and effect lasting change.''

Memorial page