Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Thomas' mom still seeking closure

Son shot to death by police two years ago

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Angela Leisure visited her son's grave Monday morning and asked for God's help. The 37-year-old mother of six prayed for peace, for strength and for closure.

"Today has been filled with tears and a lot of pain," Leisure said Monday afternoon, on the two-year anniversary of the death of her son, Timothy Thomas.

Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach shot Thomas as the unarmed 19-year-old ran from him in Over-the-Rhine.

Roach was acquitted of criminal charges, but Leisure and Thomas' 2-year-old son, Tywon Wilcox, are suing the city of Cincinnati and Roach in federal court for wrongful death and civil rights violations.

The civil case, filed in 2001, is not scheduled for trial until January.

"The pain is worse than last year because there's still no closure," Leisure said Monday. "I want the day in court when Officer Roach will have to face me and tell me why he brought it on himself to kill my son."

Roach, who quit Cincinnati police and now is an officer in Evendale, made a public apology but has never spoken directly to Leisure.

Thomas' death sparked the city's worst rioting in decades, and led to an ongoing entertainment and tourism boycott of Cincinnati

Leisure emphasized that she's not alone in losing a son.

Four years ago last month, a Cincinnati officer shot Michael Carpenter, 30, during a traffic stop. And Roger Owensby Jr., 29, died Nov. 7, 2000, while being arrested by police at a gas station in Roselawn. Federal civil lawsuits in both cases are still pending.

"Seems like they just want to drag it out. It's like torture," Leisure said. "It's not just me. In all three cases we lost children."

Leisure keeps in touch with the other families and spoke to them last week.

"We all feel the same sense of hopelessness," she said. "We all want closure, somebody standing up and being accountable."

Leisure's attorney, Kenneth L. Lawson, said it's not unusual for federal civil suits to drag out, but "it could have happened faster."

Leisure said she's tried to separate herself from the African-American community's feud with the city. Monday night, as boycott leaders prepared to present a consolidated list of demands, explain the reasons for the boycott and talk about their next moves, Leisure planned a quiet evening with family.

Still, she worries about escalating violence in the African-American community. Not enough has been done in the wake of her son's death, on the part of the city and from citizens, she said.

"It's like a standoff, with tension building all over," Leisure said. "The city can't afford another rebellion. We all need to work together."

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com

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