Monday, November 13, 2000

Rally blasts police, Shirey

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey stood and listened Sunday as African-American community leaders blasted him and other officials for a lack of action and information on the deaths of two black men at the hands of police last week.

        About 300 people attended an NAACP rally outside City Hall on Sunday afternoon to protest the deaths of Roger Owensby and Jeffrey Irons.

        Mr. Shirey said he came to hear people's concerns, but he also heard demands for solutions — from him.

        “I know I'm always expected to have all of the answers immediately, but what I can do is make sure we have a thorough and complete investigation of what happened,” he said after the hourlong rally.

        That investigation is complicated by the fact that the five police officers present when Mr. Owensby was apparently suffocated Tuesday in Roselawn have refused to talk, Mr. Shirey said.

        “I wish they had made another decision, but they decided to invoke their constitutional right to remain silent,” he said.

        Family and friends of the men who died were among those attending the rally.

        Clarissa Boyd of Golf Manor, a friend of the Owensby family, said she came to show support. “I also have four grandsons, and it scares me a lot,” she said.

        A coroner's report said Mr. Owensby, 29, of College Hill, was asphyxiated either by a choke hold or by officers piling on his back. Mr. Irons, 30, of Chicago, a suspected shoplifter, was shot and killed Wednesday after police chased him in Pleasant Ridge and after he shot an officer with another officer's gun.

        City Council member Minette Cooper was among those taking Mr. Shirey to task Sunday. She and council member Paul Booth have called a special council meeting at 3 p.m. today to discuss the deaths.

        Milton Hinton, president of the Cincinnati branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pledged to ask the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation of the police division.

        Several leaders urged that a class action lawsuit be filed, saying such deaths will not stop until they cost the city money.

        The Rev. Damon Lynch Sr., pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Carthage, demanded the police officers be held accountable: “These officers need to be tried, convicted and sent to jail.”


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