Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Account contradicts Twitty

By Marie McCain mmccain@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Authorities investigating Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. Ron Twitty's explanation of how his city owned vehicle was damaged last month have information contradicting his account that he was at home at the time.

        A source close to the investigation said Col. Twitty was spotted in a city park with the Ford Taurus about 5 a.m. July 4, less than two hours before he called police to report that his department-issued 2001 Ford Taurus had been damaged in a hit-skip accident at his Bond Hill home.

        The source said between two and five others were in McEvoy Park - a 27-acre park at North Bend and Daly roads bordering College Hill and Finneytown - with the assistant chief at that time. The source described the people as acquaintances, but had no further information.

        This information contradicts Col. Twitty's statements to investigators that he had returned home about 1 a.m. July 4 after attending a gathering in North College Hill, the source said. The assistant chief said he did not leave his home again until he discovered the damage to the car about 6:50 a.m., the source said, on his way to play golf.

        Traces of a substance consistent with concrete were found inside the bumper of the Taurus, the source added.

[photo] Twitty's damaged car
(City of Cincinnati photo)
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        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen could not be reached for comment Monday night.

        Sharon Zealey, Col. Twitty's attorney, did not return calls Monday evening for comment. No one answered the door at Col. Twitty's Bond Hill home Monday night.

        On July 12, Police Chief Tom Streicher placed Col. Twitty, the only African-American assistant chief, on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, which was conducted by Hamilton County sheriff's investigators.

        Chief Streicher has said dishonesty was at the heart of the issue.

        The chief decided that Col. Twitty's explanation that the car was damaged by an unknown motorist while he slept was not consistent with evidence, including a lack of debris at the scene in front of Col. Twitty's residence.

        Col. Twitty has not been charged with a crime. The 29-year police veteran has maintained his innocence, and his attorney has said the assistant chief expects to be “publicly exonerated, with an apology, and that he will be promptly returned to duty.”

        Photos of the car show the headlight intact but an approximately 8-inch hole torn in the left-front bumper. The right front tire was flat. Damage estimates totaled $3,337.

        The source said there is no evidence indicating alcohol was a factor.

        Police handling of the case rekindled racial tension in the city, led to the withdrawal of a 5,000-delegate National Urban League convention in 2003 and breathed new life into the year-old boycott of the city.

        The source did not know if the car was undamaged when Col. Twitty left McEvoy Park that morning. The park has a shelter house with restrooms, picnic tables, a soccer field and swing sets. There is also a secluded portion of the park located behind Hollywood Avenue residences.

        Park signs say it is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

        The assistant chief is expected to attend a news conference this morning at his church, New Friendship Baptist in Avondale, called by the church pastor, the Rev. H.L. Harvey, and other Twitty supporters to announce “the next step for Lt. Col. Ron Twitty.”

        Former Lincoln Heights Mayor James Lowry said: “A lot of people in the community have been asking what we were going to do next.”

        Mr. Lowry said he could not elaborate on what would be discussed.

        Enquirer reporters Jane Prendergast and William A. Weathers contributed.


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