Friday, September 28, 2001

Always supportive, Roach's hometown welcomes verdict

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — In this Butler County city where Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach grew up, there was support Thursday for him and the not-guilty verdict in the April 7 shooting death of an unarmed black man who was fleeing police.

        A number of people also made positive comments about Officer Roach's character and reputation in this college town of 19,000 residents.


Complete coverage in our special section.

        “My opinion is they made the right decision. ... I haven't heard anyone say anything negative about” the verdict, said Clark Thompson, 58, an Oxford police officer. He said he has known Officer Roach since the officer was a little boy.

        Timothy Thomas' death touched off days of violence in Cincinnati, and Wednesday's acquittal led to more angry outbursts.

        Taking a break Thursday morning on a picnic bench in Oxford, James Jones, a construction worker who is black, said he talked to other young black men who know Mr. Roach, who is white, and “they say he wasn't racist.”

        Mr. Jones, 18, said he's convinced that Officer Roach shot his gun “out of fear in that alley,” not because the shooting victim was black.

        Talawanda High School head football coach Doug Krause, who coached Officer Roach when he was a star fullback and linebacker, said: “There's not a bigoted or racial bone in his body.”

        Officer Roach was captain of the team his senior year, 1991-92, and was close to all of his teammates — black and white, Mr. Krause said.

        “He was a real good kid and a solid citizen,” he said.

        Officer Roach's father, Dennis, is a 23-year police officer in Oxford. Stephen Roach was a member of the Oxford Life Squad before joining Cincinnati police in 1997.

        Oxford Police Chief Stephan D. Schwein said the Roach family had left for a vacation following their son's acquittal.

        The chief said he expected some unrest if there were an acquittal, but “all in all, I think the public acted very responsibly.”

        “The mood nationwide has helped this, I think,” Chief Schwein said, referring to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands. “People are in a mindset where they want to mend fences and get along with each other, because they realize we have a greater enemy.”

        Sue Kiesewetter and Howard Wilkinson contributed to this report.



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