Thursday, September 27, 2001

Anger, fear, sadness felt on streets after verdict

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        What the young black man in the do-rag, fatigue jacket and baggy cargo pants wanted to know as he stood on a street corner in Over-the-Rhine at noon Wednesday is what makes him different from Timothy Thomas.

        Other than the fact that Timothy Thomas is dead and he is alive.

        “What,” he said, his eyes angry and sad at the same time, “is going to keep them cops from coming after me?”

“Mr. Jones”
        The 23-year-old, who would identify himself only as “Mr. Jones,” stood at a corner of Elder and Pleasant streets across from the Findlay Market, minutes after walking out of a market where he heard the news on a shop radio:

        Officer Stephen Roach, who shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas in an Over-the-Rhine alley April 7, touching off a week of violence and destruction that has left scars in the neighborhood visible still, was acquitted by a Hamilton County Municipal Court judge.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        It took only minutes after the TV and radio stations broadcast the Roach verdict for the news to spread around the neighborhood — to the shopkeepers, the shoppers, the young men such as Mr. Jones standing on street corners.

        “This,” Mr. Jones said, “is not just a slap in the face. It's a spit in the face.”

        As he was told the details of what the judge had said in freeing Officer Roach, his citing of Mr. Thomas for failing to stop and cooperate, the look on Mr. Jones' face turned from anger to disgust.

        “What do they expect a young black man like me to do when the police is coming?” Mr. Jones said. “Now, we all got the message loud and clear — you can shoot us, you can kill us, and won't nobody do a thing about it.”

        As he spoke, 40-year-old Tim Mills, an Over-the-Rhine resident, came up, with plastic surgical gloves on his hands and a garbage bag full of aluminum cans slung over his shoulder.

        He had been looking for work at a temp agency on Elm Street when he heard the word of the Roach verdict. There was no job for him Wednesday, so he went out collecting cans to make some money.

        “People in this neighborhood are going to be angry,” Mr. Mills said. “It may take a while to sink it. It may boil around for awhile.

        “There's been all this stuff about the terrorism — everybody knows how awful that is — but people hadn't been thinking about this situation right here lately,” Mr. Mills said. “Now they will.”

        A 32-year-old black man, a worker in a nearby store, wandered by the conversation and broke in.

        “It will happen all over again, somebody else will be killed,” said the man, who wouldn't give his name. “Look at me. A black man in this neighborhood. You think I'm going to stand by and let some cop put handcuffs on me? No chance. Because I might get killed.”

        Mr. Mills said people in Over-the-Rhine understand that “not all cops are bad; there are good and bad, just like anything else.”

        “But, lately, all we've seen is the bad,” Mr. Mills said.

        As the three men talked, thick smoke rolled down from the gray iron kettles of Mr. Pig's Barbecue, just down the street on Elder.

        Paul Sebron, known to all in the neighborhood as “Mr. Pig,” said he hopes the neighborhood and the whole city remain calm.

        “This pales in comparison to the other things on our plate right now,” Mr. Sebron said as lunch customers walked in and out of his place with containers of hot chicken and ribs.

        “This country has gone through a horrible time in the last few weeks, and that has sort of pushed everything else to to the bottom, even the Roach case,” Mr. Sebron said.

        “People are angry, but maybe now they are willing to let it pass.”

        Several blocks away in the 1200 block of Vine Street, another Over-the-Rhine businessman was not so sure.

        William Edwards has run The New Millennium, a crowded shop of hip-hop CDs, clothes and stereo equipment, for four years now. In April, his large plate-glass windows that look out on Vine were knocked out by rioters.

        He was afraid Wednesday that it could all be happening again.

        “Brace yourself,” he said.

        “They may be calm now,” Mr. Edwards said of the young people who mill on the Vine Street corners and flip through the CD racks at his store. “... Once they get some alcohol and weed in them, it could start all over again.”
Curfew to remain through Friday
Roach not guilty; city under curfew
Acquittals based on self-defense
- Anger, fear, sadness felt on streets after verdict
Anger is there, but chaos isn't
Experts' opinions sealed verdict
Lynch: Ruling 'sets us back'
PULFER: Turmoil of April finally over - or is it?
Q & A
Text of Judge Winkler verdict
Then and now: Race relations
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