Thursday, April 19, 2001

Tape: After chase, a 30-second silence




By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An audiotape released Wednesday by Cincinnati police shows officers chasing Timothy Thomas on April 7 were told he was wanted for open warrants.

        The types of warrants were not explained. The warrants were for misdemeanors, mostly for traffic offenses.

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Thomas
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Roach
        The tape begins with a police officer, running, calling in: I'm chasing a black man, about 6 feet tall, wearing a red bandanna and an Indy 500 jacket.

        “His name's Timothy Thomas,” Cincinnati Officer David Damico says, breathing heavily. “He's got about 14 open warrants.”

        The dispatcher repeats: 14 open warrants.

        From there, more than a dozen police officers get involved in the chase in Over-the-Rhine. The transmissions detail the chase: He's eastbound on East 13th Street. He's headed from Vine toward Walnut on 13th. One officer thinks Mr. Thomas ducked into a Vine Street store. The dispatcher repeats: Timothy Thomas, with 14 open warrants.

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The alley off Republic Street where Timothy Thomas died. Mr. Thomas climbed the chain link fence. Officer Roach entered the alley from the other end.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        Officer Damico, who first saw Mr. Thomas outside the Warehouse bar at 1313 Vine St., reports he's headed back that way again. The officer recognized Mr. Thomas as someone he had stopped before for traffic violations.

        The man didn't run to Walnut, Officer Steve Roach says from his spot on 13th Street. Another officer radios in: He's going over a fence.

        Trying to direct other officers, Officer Roach jumps in again, just after 2:16 a.m. as he sees Mr. Thomas trying to get over another fence: “Have the car stay on 13th. Have the car stay on 13th between Race and Vine street.”

        The radio goes from busy to quiet. Nothing for 30 seconds.

        Then Officer Roach again: “Send me a rescue unit.”

        What happened during that half minute when Mr. Thomas, 19, was shot will be examined by a grand jury. Members will decide, possibly next week, if Officer Roach — a four-year veteran Over-the-Rhine beat cop described by his chief as mature and fundamentally sound — should be indicted in the shooting.

        The grand jury also will review a videotape of the chase, which shows Officer Roach running along the side of a building.

        The shooting, and the fact that Mr. Thomas was the 15th African-American male to die in confrontations with police since 1995, touched off last week's riots.

        Among the issues raised by protesters is that Mr. Thomas' adult record consisted only of misdemeanors — 12 warrants for failing to take care of traffic citations, and two open misdemeanor warrants for failing to stop for officers who chased him to try to make him take care of the traffic citations.



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- Tape: After chase, a 30-second silence
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State trooper also fired beanbag shotgun
Violence could spread elsewhere, Lawson warns
State agency to assess damage