BY JANE PRENDERGAST
and GREGORY A. Hall
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON -- The call Covington police have both dreaded and anticipated came Monday afternoon -- their 134-day mission to find the body of Officer Mike Partin ended.
Police officers and Boone County Water Rescue take Officer Mike Partin's body ashore Monday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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What hundreds of hours of searching the banks and the bottom of the Ohio River didn't produce, 85-degree heat, rising water temperatures and a barge worker did.
The recovery came a day after officers nationwide finished a week of mourning their comrades killed in the line of duty. The flag outside Covington police headquarters had just been returned to half staff.
Officer Partin's remains, recognizable by his dark blue uniform, were found about 9 1/2 miles west of where he fell into the ice water early Jan. 4. He was helping a fellow officer chase a suspect across the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and apparently did not see the gap in the bridge's steel, through which he fell.
He was found about a mile and a half west of the Anderson Ferry across from the USS Nightmare. An employee of McGinnis Inc., a marine service, spotted the body near a boat used as a haunted house.
The news was delivered to the officer's widow, Lisa, by Officer Dave Coots, one of his closest colleagues. She was at a local hospital at the time, tending to her mother, who was scheduled to have surgery, said Lt Col. Steve Schmidt, department spokesman.
The Partins had been married nine months when he went into the water. He was 25 and a police officer just 15 months.
News of the finding was spread to the entire department via pagers. Capt. Gary Kiser made the announcement "with deep regrets."
A second message asked for four or five officers to head to the riverfront to meet the body. Within minutes, he heard from 25 who said they were putting on their uniforms and were on their way.
For Covington officers, the body in the bag was one of their own. They wanted to pay their last respects. By later Monday afternoon, a third of the 100-plus force showed up at Covington Landing, where the department planned to bring the body out of the water.
Officers gather at Covington Landing intending to meet the boat returning Officer Partin's body.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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But plans were changed when a detective threw in a reality check. The body is evidence, too, he said, part of a criminal case against the man Officer Partin was helping chase the night he fell into the water. The trip upriver would have added another hour of exposure to the body. The officers did not like it much, but they conceded.
So the body traveled from the shoreline on a Boone County Water Rescue boat to the Anderson Ferry dock along Ky. 8 in Boone County. Escorted by four cruisers, their lights flashing but sirens silent, it was then driven to St. Luke Hospital East in Fort Thomas. An autopsy will be performed there.
"The body was released to Covington although it was found on this side of the river," said Cincinnati Police Chief Michael Snowden, who responded to the water's edge. "We felt if we were going to err in any way, we would err on the side of mercy."
Mrs. Partin has said she would welcome an autopsy. She hopes science can confirm what her heart says, that her husband of less than a year was knocked out when his head hit the bridge. She wants to know he didn't know what was happening to him, that he didn't suffer as much as he might have.
Sgt. Matt Walden visits the Covington Police Memorial Monday after learning that Officer Partin's body had been recovered.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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Lt. Mike Kraft, Officer Partin's supervisor on third shift, got the call shortly after lunch that a body had been found near the Cargill salt warehouse along River Road in Sayler Park. From Lt. Kraft's tone, Lt. Col. Schmidt said he had a feeling this tip would turn out to be the one.
False alarms were fairly frequent throughout the past four months. Each time, officers would get their hopes up. Many of them had begun to wonder whether Officer Partin would ever be found.
"Even I'd gotten to the point where I just didn't know anymore," Lt. Col. Schmidt said.
The man Officer Partin was chasing, Shawnta Robertson, 20, of Cincinnati, has been indicted on a manslaughter charge. He is scheduled to return to court in Covington next week, after he finishes serving time in Cincinnati for an unrelated crime. He also faces misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and running a red light.
As news media raced to the site where the body was found, Covington police were racing to notify Mrs. Partin first so she wouldn't learn of her husband's recovery on the radio or television. She had watched the river temperature every day, knowing warmer temperatures might coax the body to the surface.
"I think the emotional part's going to strike later," Lt. Col. Schmidt said. "Right now, everyone's trying to do something, just like the night when he fell. This was a mission for us for a long time."
Officer Partin's funeral will be at St. Timothy Episcopal Church in Anderson Township, where he and his wife were married in April 1997. A day and time was not yet known late Monday.
"Now we're going to kick it into high gear and give Mike the best send-off we can," Lt. Col. Schmidt said. "We're just glad to have him back."
Mike Partin page
Daniel Pope and Ronald Jeter page
Katy Conway page