Friday, January 22, 1999

Stakeout of funeral defended

Police action angers family

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — Kenton County Police on Thursday defended their officers' attempt to arrest a wanted felon shortly after a funeral, saying they would do it again if they had to.

        The department and its fugitive-finding team decided it was important enough to try to arrest Jamie Thornberry that Tuesday they staked out the funeral of his father, well-known local nightclub owner Harold Thornberry.

        They did, with officers in plain clothes and unmarked cars. And they admit they drew their guns in ordering a man they thought was Jamie Thornberry to get out of a car as mourners left the cemetery.

        “We're not in the business of hurting people,” said Capt. Ed Butler, department spokesman. “We were going to allow him to attend his father's funeral. We were trying to balance respect with our job.”

        The man officers thought was Mr. Thornberry was actually his cousin, so the scene in Highland Cemetery, Fort Mitchell, ended with no arrest. But it angered Mr. Thornber ry's grieving friends and relatives. They don't think police had to choose that forum for an arrest.

        The officers justified it in two ways:

        • Mr. Thornberry, 30, fled to Florida several months ago, failing to show up for meetings with his parole officer and failing to report his new location. He was on parole after serving time for burglary. He also was arrested Halloween night in Covington and charged with possession of cocaine.

        Capt. Butler said his criminal history is extensive. The department's fugitive team found him in Miami, but could not narrow his location down further.

        • And they point out that Mr. Thornberry is wanted on the same charge — a parole violation — that Donald Colston was being sought on when he shot and killed his es tranged wife, Sandra. That crime touched off a call for more thorough service of outstanding warrants, which led to Kenton County's establishment of its warrants unit.

        Mr. Thornberry's family has the right to be unhappy, said Chief Mike Browning.

        “We understand that,” he said. “But sometimes, these are the kinds of things you have to do to bring people to justice.”


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