Thursday, April 20, 2000

Sheriff: Shooting seems justified

Final reports on deputy's actions to be complete in days

BY Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLERAIN TOWNSHIP — In several days, the prosecutor and sheriff will receive formal reports of the Tuesday morning shooting by a Hamilton County sheriff's deputy of a Green Township man who attacked him with a steel pipe, officials said.

        Interviews with Deputy Robert Viner, 27, have been completed and all evidence, except for a coroner's report, had been gathered Wednesday. Deputy Viner shot and killed Timothy W. Lucas, 39, who attacked him.

        “At this point, unless something else turns up, it is the sheriff's opinion that the shooting is justified,” said Steve Barnett, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.

        Deputy Viner shot Mr. Lucas of Stevie Lane, Green Township, once in the abdomen as Mr. Lucas charged him with the 14-inch-long pipe in the parking lot of a closed convenience store at 3600 Banning Road here. There were no witnesses, officials have said.

        The shooting occurred after the deputy stopped Mr. Lucas for driving his 1986 Buick with expired license plates. Mr. Lucas died of the wound at University Hospital at 5:40 a.m., about three hours after being shot.

        Regardless of the outcome of blood tests for drugs and alcohol being conducted by the coroner, the sheriff's opinion would not change. However, the tests could help provide a possible reason for Mr. Lucas' actions, Mr. Barnett said.

        The formal reports to be sent to Sheriff Simon L. Leis Jr. and the Hamilton County prosecutor's office are being compiled by the department's Criminal Investigation Section and its Internal Affairs Division led by retired Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. Bruce Knox. Formal rulings by the prosecutor and the sheriff will be issued after the reports are finished and reviewed, Mr. Barnett said.

        Meanwhile, officials were still trying to understand what would motivate Mr. Lucas' actions. Mr. Barnett said interviews with the officer about a discordant conversation between him and the victim just after the traffic stop have led investigators to theorize Mr. Lucas was en route to his home — less than two miles away. M

        A review of Deputy Viner's personnel file, obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals no disciplinary actions against him during his one year stint as a patrol officer or during his 41/2 years as a sheriff's corrections officer.

        There are two commendations in the file.

        One of the commendations is for helping a female inmate at the Hamilton County jail in 1995 who was choking on food. The other commendation was for acting as a judge in a law enforcement Explorer scouting competition last year.

        Deputy Viner received state-required certification for police officers from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Council in 1996. He completed the Peace Officer Basic Training Program at Great Oaks Police Academy while he was working in the sheriff's corrections division.

        Mr. Barnett said the shooting incident will not change policies or procedures of the sheriff's office and all indications are that Deputy Viner used proper procedure in the decision to use deadly force.

        “The sheriff's office does not contemplate making any changes ... regarding shots fired based of our record that we have not had a fatal shooting since 1982 and, before that, the last one anyone can recall was in the 1950s,” Mr. Barnett said. Mr. Barnett said Sheriff Leis requires all patrol officers to have completed at least two prior years of service as a corrections officer before being elevated to patrol officer.

        Sheriff Leis “feels that gives us time to evaluate new hires and gives the officer a broader experience and contact with the criminal element. It tests the maturity and judgment of individuals and gives us time to better train them before they ever go on the patrol,” Mr. Barnett said.

        Since 1997, the sheriff has made it mandatory that candidates for his department attend the Hamilton County Sheriff's Police Academy in Colerain Township. Deputy Viner was not under that mandate and graduated from another academy, but still had to fulfill the requirement to serve as a corrections officer, which he did for 41/2 years, Mr. Barnett said.


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