Wednesday, March 24, 1999
Officers feared being run over, killed
Press conference on shooting is today
BY TANYA BRICKING
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Two Cincinnati police officers thought Michael Carpenter would run over them during a traffic stop Friday. Fearing for their lives, they opened fire, police sources said.
The officers' descriptions of what happened, expected to be released at a news conference this morning, will include statements that Mr. Carpenter was backing up his car and not complying with the officers' orders to stop, the sources said.
The 30-year-old Mount Airy man died late Friday from a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
Police officials have been tight-lipped about what led to the shooting, but the division will release the officers' accounts today, Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. said.
The officers were not knocked down during the confrontation, he said, but he declined to elaborate.
Kenneth Lawson, the attorney for Mr. Carpenter's family, said he has witnesses who say the car was not moving just before Mr. Carpenter was shot.
What is undisputed is that Officers Brent McCurley and Michael B. Miller II pulled Mr. Carpenter over for expired tags and shot him less than two minutes later.
Mr. Carpenter was not armed with a gun. Police will not say whether he tried to use the knife found in his car against police.
Police also will not say which officer fired first. In all,
10 shots were fired and two hit Mr. Carpenter.
Officers are trained to shoot only if we are in fear of our own lives or protection of someone else's, said Ted Schoch, a former assistant chief who now leads police academy training. If one officer fires, other officers are supposed to make independent decisions about whether to shoot as well, he said.
But the shooting itself, and the new chief's response to his first controversy since taking over two weeks ago, already is drawing criticism. Talk radio stations have included callers complaining about the police division's refusal to release information and a perception that there is a bias against black drivers.
There are many people who are concerned about the number of shots fired, said the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a civil rights leader in North Avondale who at times has been a critic of the police division's use of force.
The concern I have is that the man was not out attacking the police, he said. I just disparage people being killed when they aren't out to hurt anybody else. God knows I hope that's not the case here.
Officer Miller, 24, a rookie just out of the police academy in December, was still on probation and was paired with Officer McCurley, 27, who was his training officer. They rode the overnight shift together, patrolling the Northside area.
Officer Miller is an Aiken High and Ohio State University graduate. Officer McCurley is a four-year veteran from St. Louis and won a marksmanship award during his training in Cincinnati. Officer McCurley also had been a deputy sheriff in Missouri before being recruited to Cincinnati.
Both had worked as security guards before joining Cincinnati's 1,000-member force.
Officer McCurley was the officer who took a complaint in November claiming Mr. Carpenter had threatened to kill his brother and burn down the family's Northside apartment. In that incident, Mr. Carpenter was gone from the scene by the time Officer McCurley arrived.
There is no indication the officers knew who Mr. Carpenter was when they saw him inside a Northside convenience store minutes before the shooting.
Mr. Carpenter went into Circle K to buy a quart of oil. He didn't have enough money and asked the clerk for some change.
The officers arrived about the time Mr. Carpenter went outside to the Pontiac he had borrowed from a friend and returned to the store with $2.10 a penny short. The clerk sold him the oil anyway, but the officers were concerned by his behavior.
That was when the radio traffic began, about 1:24 a.m., when the officers ran a computer check on the temporary tags of the blue Pontiac. The check showed expired license plate information. From there, the officers tried to pull Mr. Carpenter over.
As they prepare for their oldest son's funeral, Mr. Carpenter's parents are still seeking answers about what happened between the initial traffic stop and the shooting.
His mother, Elsie Carpenter, 49, said she wishes people would stop dwelling on her son's criminal history, which included two assaults on police officers. She wants police to give her an explanation in person.
They're having press conferences, but they're not telling us anything, she said. It's frustrating. It's very frustrating.
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