Friday, December 15, 2000

Police deny claim of witness harassment

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's police chief is disputing claims that witnesses to the death of a man in police custody have been made to take multiple lie detector tests, stopped repeatedly for questioning and threatened with arrest.

        Despite claims by Roger Owensby Sr. that three unnamed people who watched his son die last month in a Roselawn parking lot are being harassed, Chief Thomas Streicher says “one witness was administered a polygraph” and another had to be located by investigators after missing an interview appointment.

        “No other contacts have occurred between the police division and witnesses concerning the investigation of this incident,” Chief Streicher said in a letter to the city manager obtained Thursday by the Enquirer.

        Mr. Owensby said Thursday that he had not seen the letter and would not comment on the chief's response.

        But on Monday he said witnesses have told him about being questioned by police up to six times and of being forced to take as many as five lie detector tests.

        He said witnesses were being stopped and searched by police officers, who take them to a police station for hours of questioning.

        “My family is trying to let the wheels of justice turn,” Mr. Owensby wrote in a letter to Mayor Charlie Luken. “If any other person did 10 percent of what I am being told, we or they would be behind bars right now.”

        Chief Streicher does not address each point of Mr. Owensby's letter.

        That's because there were not any specifics to go on, including the names of those who are claiming harassment, Mr. Luken said Thursday.

        “I believe the police chief took those allegations very seriously,” the mayor said. “He reported what he found.”

        He said that the chief was unable to interview the complainants and that Mr. Owensby has not identified them.

        Chief Streicher was out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

        Roger Owensby Jr., 29, died Nov. 7 minutes after being arrested. Exactly what Mr. Owensby was sought for has not been made clear.


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