Thursday, February 27, 2003

Two city police officers fired

Five others punished in Owensby death

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer



Two Cincinnati police officers involved in the suffocation death of Roger Owensby Jr. were fired Wednesday, more than two years after Owensby died during his arrest in a Roselawn parking lot.

The police union promised an immediate appeal of the terminations of Patrick Caton and Victor Spellen - plus the suspensions of five others. But Owensby's parents, Roger Sr. and Brenda, called it too little too late.

The officers, Owensby Sr. said, should have been fired immediately following their son's November 2000 death, and should have had to fight to get their jobs back "like my son fought for his life.''

They counted the number of days it took the city to decide the punishment: 821. But they said the action offered them one hope - that the U.S. Department of Justice would now launch a full civil-rights investigation into what happened.

"We're going to keep fighting until (the truth) does come out,'' the dead man's father said. "I don't care whose head falls, from (Hamilton County Prosecutor) Mike Allen on down.''

They still think Allen should have retried former officer Robert "Blaine'' Jorg. He and Caton both faced criminal trials in Owensby's death.

Both were acquitted of assault, but the Jorg jury could not decide on the more serious charge of manslaughter.

Spellen admitted he lied on the stand during Jorg's trial for manslaughter. Jorg had been his training officer.

Police were chasing Owensby, 29, because they said he fled during a previous drug investigation.

The Hamilton County Coroner's Office ruled that the death was caused by mechanical asphyxia, but could not say definitively how Owensby was asphyxiated.

Caton, 37, an ex-Marine on the force since 1997, was taken off duty for months after the Owensby death, but had returned to patrol in District 1 while the administrative actions were pending.

The disciplinary action came more than four months after investigations by the Internal Investigations Section and the Office of Municipal Investigation. OMI found that the officers used excessive force.

Also issued Wednesday:

• 40-hour suspensions for Officers Darren Sellers and David Hunter.

• 24-hour suspensions for Officers Abraham Lawson, Brian Brazile and Jason Hodge.

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