Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Rioters ignore pleas for calm

Damage, arrests, injuries mount

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Storefront burns on Elder Avenue in Findlay Market.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Flames and vandalism spread through parts of downtown Cincinnati and nearby neighborhoods Tuesday as anger turned to violence for hundreds of people protesting the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a Cincinnati police officer.

        Cincinnati police in riot gear used tear gas and fired rubber projectiles and bean bags filled with metal pellets to try to control people who smashed store windows, overturned trash cans and threw bottles and bricks. (Map)

        After dark, looters hit stores in Over-the-Rhine where windows had been broken out by vandals earlier in the day.

        Police reported widespread looting of stores on Race Street and Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine. People carried furniture and stereo equipment out of Leader Furniture at 13 W. Elder St. The vandals were mostly black men and women in their teens or early 20s.

Officer subdues a rioter in Over-The-Rhine
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        Mayor Charlie Luken appealed for calm during an evening news conference inside City Hall, where police clad in helmets and shields guarded the front door. He called for public discussion to replace violence.

        “If we can't do that, then I'm not optimistic that the future will be that much better than the past,” Mr. Luken said.

        Firefighters battled fires in the 1700 block of Vine Street and at Elder and Elm near Findlay Market.

        At one point in the evening, fire and 911 emergency calls were so numerous that Cincinnati firefighters would not get out of their firetrucks because there were no police officers to protect them.

Injured teens fill out reports after rocks were thrown through their car window.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        Bars and nightclubs along the Main Street entertainment strip were closed Tuesday night. Scott Hughes, owner of Japp's, a

        Main Street bar, said he would keep his business closed “until this whole situation is over.”

        Lt. Ray Ruberg of the police division said 10 people were arrested for disorderly conduct and rioting, 25 people were taken to hospitals and 40 others were injured but treated at the scene. “Those numbers are continuing to grow,” Lt. Ruberg said.

        About 10:30 p.m., police were investigating a report that an elderly man and woman were dragged from their Jeep and beaten with rocks by a roving gang at Walnut and Mercer streets in Over-the-Rhine.

        Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said the state is not ready to step into the situation and won't do so unless the city asks. He does not expect City Manager John Shirey to do so.

Showroom window smashed at D. Davis Furniture Co. on Main Street.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        “We need to give the prosecutor the time to come forward with the facts,” Mr. Taft said in a radio interview. “We need to really cool and calm the rhetoric, in all forms.”

        He said his office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol are monitoring the situation.

Started with shooting

        The anger Tuesday was sparked by the shooting death Saturday of Timothy Thomas, 19, by a Cincinnati police officer who had chased him to 12th and Republic streets in Over-the-Rhine. Mr. Thomas was wanted on 14 warrants, most of them traffic violations.

        The shooting is being investigated by the police. The FBI on Tuesday opened a civil rights investigation and will forward its findings to the Justice Department, FBI spokesman Ed Boldt said. Mr. Boldt said it could be several months before Justice Department officials decide whether the FBI should step up its investigation.

Officer points pellet gun at Leroy Pearson on Green Street after he wouldn't go back into his house. Pearson was shot.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        Mr. Luken remained at City Hall throughout the day. The building, which had numerous windows broken Monday night, was closed to the public. He canceled today's City Council meeting and was briefed on what his powers would be under a declared state of emergency. He said he was not making such a declaration.

        “It's a little frightening,” he said. “It's sad for our city. It's just sad. I hope this is the darkness before the dawn, but it's hard to see that in light of what's going on.”

        The Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front and a critic of police performance, urged a community meeting of 200 people at his New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine to remain calm.

        “There is enough violence in our city right now without us adding to it,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said.

A lone protester in the middle of Race Street throws a can at a police line.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        The group cut short a peaceful march from its Elm Street church to Washington Park because of the melee. The church stayed open through the night.

        Police in riot gear tried to pen in the crowd at several locations for most of the afternoon and into Tuesday night, but the destruction was widespread.

        The street violence led to a literal lockdown of Cincinnati City Hall for fear it would spill over into city offices.

        Concerned for the safety of citizens, Mr. Luken canceled today's Cincinnati City Council meeting - the first time that has happened in anyone's memory.

Carlos Antonio shows where he was hit by a rubber bullet.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        The meeting was to have been held at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center to handle the expected large crowd. It was just too dangerous, Mr. Luken said.

        “I resisted for four hours,” he said. “I think people should be allowed to have a place to speak.”

        But he said public safety officials and members of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission cautioned that somebody could get hurt. On Monday, hundreds of protesters overran a Public Safety and Law Committee meeting in council chambers.

        In Over-the-Rhine, police fired tear gas canisters into crowds of protesters several times during the day and night, at times after being pelted with bottles by some in the crowd.

Tension shows in this officer's face along Race Street at Liberty.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Mike Gundling, 38, of Colerain Township was driving his van back when people approached his car and started throwing bottles and bricks. A brick went through side of his van and struck him in the neck.

        “I saw the brick coming, but I couldn't do anything about it. My first thought is to get out of here,” he said.

        At mid-afternoon Tuesday, a group protesting the shooting started moving down Race Street from Over-the-Rhine, moving to demonstrate in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse and then on to Fountain Square.

Windows smashed

        The group snaked its way around downtown and Over-the-Rhine, with protesters breaking dozens of shop windows as police in riot gear tried to hold back the crowds.

Protesters threw trash cans and carts into the Tyler Davidson Fountain on Fountain Square.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Tommy Flynn, who owns Bar Cincinnati and the Have a Nice Day cafe nightspots on Main Street, was at an ATM when someone threw a can of Hawaiian Punch at him, narrowly missing his head.

        One of the protesters smashed a $2,000 window at Bar Cincinnati with a baseball bat.

        Mr. Flynn said he feared for his life: “Hell yes, I did.”

        He said until now, he didn't have any misgivings about locating his business in a high-crime area. “But this changes everything,” he said.

Janette Adwani, right, stands beside the shattered window of her store, the Circle A Market, 13th and Main, with daughter Elizabeth Fingemajen.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        The violence escalated when the group moved down Court Street to Main, tipping over two hot dog vendor carts in its path. Soda cans and bags of potato chips were thrown at deputies as they came out of the Hamilton County Courthouse to try to stop the violence.

        With police vehicles trailing behind, the throng moved down Main Street, breaking a large display window at D. Davis Furniture Co. with a can of grape soda.

        Kevin Beard, a Lawrenceburg man who has worked at the store for seven years, was setting up a lamp display in the window when the first soda can hit.

        The window shattered on the fourth hit, giving Mr. Beard enough time to get out of harm's way.

"Not a solution'

        “I understand people being upset, but this is not a solution,” he said.

Rioters leave overturned hot dog cart at Reading Road and Main Street.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        Downtown damage was particularly bad in the 600 blocks of Vine and Race streets. Hotdog stands and garbage cans were turned over. Windows were broken and smashed.

        A protester used a glass cutter to cut a perfect circle in the storefront at Chong Inc., a clothing store. Another window was shattered; and along the street, large clay flower pots were tossed on their sides.

        Jannette Adwani, whose family owns Circle A Market at 1304 Main St., stood back and watched as a mob threw bricks at her convenience store, breaking the windows.

        “I'm scared, concerned, but we have to stay until we can secure our business,” she said. “If we leave before the windows are boarded up, they will come back and loot.”

Mary Ann Meredith is cared for after being hit in the head by a rubber bullet in Washington Park.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        Byron Jones, 30, of Bond Hill, who joined the protesters as they made their way through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, said what happened Tuesday afternoon is “the only way to get their attention.”

        “We've asked and we've asked and we've asked,” Mr. Jones said. “We're not going to ask anymore.”

        Kevin Walker, a 38-year- old Over-the-Rhine resident, was holding a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. when he was struck by a rubber projectile.

        “I'm sad because I've come down to get some justice and I guess it's just a trigger-happy force down here.”

        Some Over-the-Rhine residents who said they were merely bystanders got caught up in the violence.

Protesters stand on a a car blocking an intersection.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        Enya Kirksey, a 23-year-old who is three months pregnant, said she was shot by police with a rubber projectile as she was trying to get to her home near Washington Park.

        Police told her to stop; when she did not, an officer fired, grazing her stomach and hitting her in the foot.

        “They'll shoot at anybody,” Ms. Kirksey said.

        Leroy Pearson, 52, said he was standing outside his Elm Street apartment with his three grandchildren and his son when police told him to move. Mr. Pearson said he refused, telling them this was his home. Mr. Pearson said he was shot four times with rubber projectiles.

        “This hurt my grandkids because they don't know what's going on and they think I'm dying,” said Mr. Pearson, who was bleeding from a pellet wound.

        Norman Cottman, who works at ZZ Kids Inc. on Race Street, said protesters were not justified in damaging property.

        “For them to trash the businesses makes no sense at all,” he said.

Protesters march on Race Street.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Victoria Stone, 23, who was waiting for a Metro bus downtown Tuesday evening, said Cincinnati police should stop overreacting.

        “I think it's crazy,” she said. “I honestly do. It needs to stop. I just think they (police) need to have better control over themselves.”

        Safety Director Kent Ryan — a man at the center of the controversy over the Thomas shooting — remained in University Hospital, where he went Monday night after a volatile City Council committee meeting during which Councilwoman Alicia Reece called for him to be fired. He was being treated in the hospital's cardiac care unit and listed in good condition.

        Enquirer reporters Jane Prendergast, Kristina Goetz, Ken Alltucker, Robert Anglen, Marie McCain, Jim Hannah, Dan Klepal and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Map: Where violence occured
Photo gallery
- Rioters ignore pleas for calm
Initial findings may not support officer's actions
Council locked up in City Hall
Blacks, whites vent on radio
Brother's whispers resound amid madness
Rioting not the way, leaders say
Police try to go by the 'book'
Public Safety Department may be abolished
Racial strife not new to city
Donations for Thomas family