Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Report promised soon on beanbag firings at crowd

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati police have interviewed about 40 people and are nearly finished with an investigation into why officers fired beanbags filled with metal pellets into a peaceful crowd Saturday, Chief Tom Streicher said Monday.

Christine Jones is helped to an ambulance after being hit by a beanbag shot by police at Liberty and Elm Streets Saturday. She was hospitalized with multiple injuries.
(Victoria Spurling photo)
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        Two adults and two children were injured by the beanbags, which police used throughout several days of rioting as a nonlethal weapon to disperse crowds.

        “I should have something in the very, very near future,” Chief Streicher said.

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said the police chief is considering reassigning the officers involved in the incident.

        “It is troublesome to me, and to I think anyone who has heard or seen what happened,” Mr. Luken said. “But let me also point out to you that we have had a great deal of violence on our streets over the last few days.”

        The Cincinnati office of the FBI has also opened a preliminary inquiry into the beanbag incident, said FBI spokesman Ed Boldt.

        “We have already done some interviews. The results of those interviews will be sent to the civil-rights section of the U.S. Department of Justice in about 21 days,” Mr. Boldt said.

Jahcol Lowry, 7, was hit by a beanbag at Liberty and Elm.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        The firing of the beanbags into the crowd at Elm and Liberty streets in Over-the-Rhine shortly after the funeral for Timothy Thomas could raise another wave of criticism about police conduct.

        Louisville high-school teacher Christine Jones was hospitalized and at least three other people — including two children — were hit.

        “We didn't know if it was live ammunition. I wasn't sure what I was shot with. The police cars came around a corner and stopped ... about 20-30 feet away and got out of their cars and started firing,” Ms. Jones said Monday from her Louisville home.

        She was hospitalized with a bruised spleen, cracked rib and bruised lung until Mon day noon, when she was released from Louisville's Jewish Hospital. Now on painkillers and ordered to stay in bed, the 37-year-old activist said her puzzlement over the police action is matched only by her anger.

Police use bean bag (right) and rubber bullet for riot control.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        “There were children there and it was a totally unprovoked attack. It reminded me of a drive-by shooting. It was as if they were trying to hurt people,” Ms. Jones said.

        Ms. Jones said she plans to file a formal complaint with the Cincinnati police and is considering legal action against the city.

        Doreen Cudnik has already been interviewed by police and FBI investigators and told them that she witnessed anywhere from 15-20 bean bag shots being fired into the peaceful crowd.

        “I was on the other side of the street. It seemed like a peaceful demonstration and I didn't hear the police yell anything. There was no warning,” said Ms. Cudnik, who is director of Stonewall Cincinnati and had just left Mr. Thomas' funeral.

        “It was very distressing. I felt like I had witnessed a drive-by shooting,” she said.

        Enquirer reporter Jane Prendergast contributed to this story.


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