Thursday, September 27, 2001

Q & A




        Since the April 7 shooting of Timothy Thomas, many questions have surfaced about the death, the ensuing riots and the criminal prosecution of Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers:

        Q: Was Timothy Thomas wanted by police before the shooting?

        A: Yes, for 14 misdemeanor charges, mostly minor traffic infractions. The charges included two of running from police on previous occasions.

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        Q: Does anyone know why he ran from police that night?

        A: No. But Mr. Thomas had a history of running to avoid arrest.

        Q: Is it common for suspects to run from police?

        A: Yes. During the Roach trial, residents of Over-the-Rhine and officers who work there said suspects run “just about every day.” Some community leaders have said suspects assume police will become violent while making an arrest.

        Q: When and why did Officer Roach pull his gun?

        A: Prosecutors said he drew his gun and ran with his finger on the trigger before confronting Mr. Thomas. Officer Roach said he did not draw until he saw Mr. Thomas round a corner in an alley.

        Q: If Mr. Thomas was unarmed, what prompted Officer Roach to shoot him?

        A: In two conflicting statements to investigators, Officer Roach gave two reasons: First, he said Mr. Thomas made a quick movement that scared him, reaching for the waistband of his baggy sweat pants. Later, he said he thought Mr. Thomas reached for a gun.

        Q: Why was this a misdemeanor case?

        A: The grand jury concluded he did not kill intentionally or recklessly.

        Q: What did the prosecution have to prove to win a conviction?

        A: That Officer Roach exhibited a “substantial lapse from due care.” Prosecutors argued that the officer did not use “due care” when he drew his gun and ran with his finger on the trigger.

        Q: What was the judge's ruling?

        A: That Officer Roach's actions were not criminal. Instead, he said, “the shooting was a split-second reaction to a very dangerous situation created by Timothy Thomas.”

        Q: Can the verdict be appealed?

        A: It's very difficult to successfully appeal a not-guilty verdict. But prosecutor Stephen McIntosh said he will review the decision. Q: What happens next to Officer Roach?

        A: Police will conduct an administrative review of the incident. But he will likely keep his job.

— Compiled by Dan Horn and Marie McCain

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