Monday, April 16, 2001

Bean-bag shooting unprovoked,
says ex-cop, now city official

Human relations director saw incident

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's human relations director Sunday joined the call for an explanation of why Cincinnati Police fired bean-bags into a crowd Saturday in what he and other witnesses called an unprovoked attack. A 37-year-old teacher was hospitalized Sunday with a cracked rib, bruised lung and bruised spleen. Two children were also hit.

Jahcol Lowry, 7, was one of four people hit by police beanbags at Liberty and Elm Streets Saturday.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        Cecil Thomas, a former police officer who now leads the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, stood at Elm and Liberty streets on Saturday afternoon after Timothy Thomas' funeral. He said he was thinking about how lucky the city was that no rioting broke out after the services for the man shot April 7 by a Cincinnati police officer.

        He saw three Cincinnati cruisers and one Ohio State Highway Patrol car drive up. Officers and troopers jumped out, he said, fired into a small crowd that “wasn't doing anything.” They then got back into their cars and were gone in seconds.

        “I knew how hard we had worked to keep these people calm,” he said Sunday. “I'm just hoping that there's some (provocation) that I might've missed.”

Officer aims at marchers Saturday with a shotgun loaded with beanbag ammunition.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        The police division released no new information about the incident Sunday, although more is expected today. The division's internal affairs unit started investigating immediately, Mr. Thomas said. FBI agents quizzed witnesses too, including photographer Tom Uhlman of Camp Washington, who was on the scene working for the Associated Press.

        Neither Mr. Uhlman nor Mr. Thomas heard any warnings before the shots. Division officials have said officers generally warn crowds to disperse before shooting at them.

        Mr. Thomas, a Cincinnati officer for 27 years before retiring last year, said policy dictates that an on-scene supervisor order when shooting can start. Officers, he said, do not have blanket approval to fire.

Police use bean bag (right) and rubber bullet for crowd control.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Christine Jones, 37, a high school French teacher from Louisville who was hit by the bean-bag fire, was being treated Sunday night in a Louisville hospital. She was standing in a crosswalk and helping hold a banner that read “Citizens Against Police Abuse” when the officers pulled up.

        “Nothing was going on, other than the funeral let out,” she said in a telephone interview from the hospital Sunday. “People were just chatting. They didn't say to disperse, stop, get out of here, nothing.”

        Mayor Charlie Luken called the incident troublesome.

        “As soon as it happened, my phone started ringing off the hook with calls from people at the scene,” he said. “We're determined to find out what happened and why.”

        Mr. Uhlman said calling the ammunition bean bags “ makes them sound harmless. They're actually little bags of buckshot.”

        Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman said Sunday he did not yet know details of the incident.

        “Our officers fired hundreds of bean-bag rounds throughout this ordeal,” he said.

        Cindi Andrews contributed.


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