Friday, April 09, 1999

Woman sees similarities in Carpenter shooting

Police killed husband; evidence disputed

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Linda Roundtree sympathizes with the concern of a Mount Airy man's family about a possible cover-up in the investigation into his death.

        She has kept up with the accounts of the March 19 death of Michael Carpenter, who was shot by Cincinnati police during a traffic stop in Northside, because she has lived through a similar experience.

        Her husband was shot to death by a Cincinnati police officer 19 years ago today.

        Enquirer clippings from 1980 say Mrs. Roundtree, then 18, called police that morning claiming her husband of five weeks was threatening to shoot her with a loaded .22-caliber pistol.

        When officers arrived at the couple's Brighton home, Michael Roundtree refused to show his hands or give up the pistol. Police fired, Mr. Roundtree fired back, and an officer killed him with a shot to his chest.

        Mrs. Roundtree says evidence she has collected over the years contradicts the police version of what happened. The officer was cleared in the shooting.

        Similarly, accounts surfacing about the Carpenter shooting have added to confusion over what really happened.

        The police version is that officers Brent McCurley and Michael B. Miller II fired because they feared for their lives.

        The officers said 30-year-old Mr. Carpenter dragged one officer 15 feet and appeared to be backing toward the other when they began shooting. Two of their 10 shots hit him, one a fatal blow to the head.

        His death was the fourth fatal shooting of a suspect by Cincinnati police in about a year. The first three were ruled self-defense. A ruling on this case is pending.

        Since Kenneth Lawson, the Carpenter family's attorney, filed a civil-rights suit against police last week in U.S. District court, police have been interviewing his list of witnesses.

        That list includes a man who says Mr. Carpenter never moved his car and never dragged or threatened to run over the officers. That witness, whom police will not identify, has passed two polygraph tests about his version of the shooting.

        Police will say only that their investigation is continuing and that they will evaluate the credibility of all witnesses. In addition to homicide and internal-investigation reviews, the city's independent Office of Municipal Investigations is working on the case. Those reviews are incomplete.

        The differing versions already surfacing have set off an outcry by community groups who want answers quickly.

        The Ministers for Justice, a group of black ministers, has lobbied city officials to change the way the city handles investigations into police misconduct.

        In response to complaints that Officer McCurley was back on the job, he was assigned to desk duty. City Manager John Shirey has ordered a formal written policy about when officers can return to active duty. Policy is three days of paid leave pending an evaluation by a police psychologist.

        Mrs. Roundtree understands the public outcry. “I do hope that the people get justice,” she said.


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