Friday, April 27, 2001

Family of children hit by beanbags sues city, cops

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Relatives of two children who were struck by beanbag projectiles following the funeral of Timothy Thomas are suing the city of Cincinnati, its police chief and six officers who fired the shots.

        The civil suit seeks at least $2 million. It was filed Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Demetrius Lowry and Denise Simpson and their daughters, who were hit by the non-lethal pellet-filled beanbags April 14.

        The suit alleges that the injuries suffered by Jah'cole Lowry, 7, and LaSha Simpson, 11, were the results of a “deliberate indifference on the city's part in failing to adequately train and discipline its officers.”

        The suit also contends that the officers' actions “shock(ed) the conscience of our community.”

        The six officers: Spec. Todd Bruner, 31, Sgt. Eric Hall, 41, John Mercado, 34, Sgt. Arthur Schultz, 37, Jennifer Ventre, 34, and Timothy Pappas, 34, are on administrative leave with pay. The incident is under federal investigation.

        Officials from the city solitor's office and the police department did not return phone calls Thursday for comment.

        The incident occurred about 4 p.m. that Saturday, shortly after Mr. Thomas' funeral. Witnesses say the officers sped up to a small group of protesters gathered at Elm and Liberty streets in Over-the-Rhine, got out of their cruisers and fired without warning into the crowd.

        They then got back into their cars and sped away, witnesses said.

        The plaintiffs' attorney, Ken Lawson, said the officers should be prosecuted.

        “There can be no justification for the shooting of 7- and 11-year-old children,” he said. “The whole world was watching that funeral. The whole word was watching our city, and this police division in broad daylight does a driveby shooting on children.”

        Mr. Lawson also represents the survivors of Mr. Thomas, who was killed after running from police. His death sparked several days of rioting in the city.

        Another riot-related lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court.

        Michael G. Brautigam of North Avondale filed a class-action lawsuit against Mayor Charlie Luken and the city of Cincinnati, claiming the constitutional rights of residents were violated when a curfew was imposed.

        The curfew lasted April 12-15 and “turned Cincinnati into a police state,” the suit says.


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