Saturday, May 10, 2003

Robbers hit bar; patron shoots

Police charge him with felony assault

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Ordinarily, the more than 500 members of the Citizens on Patrol Program walk the streets of 21 Cincinnati neighborhoods on the lookout for crime, carrying nothing more than a police radio and a cell phone.

Thursday night, at a Northside bar, one of those patrol members, 54-year-old Harold McKinney, found some crime. And he was carrying a semiautomatic pistol.

Police say McKinney shot an 18-year-old Walnut Hills man, Joseph Person, while Person and DeMeico Hester, 18, also of Walnut Hills, were attempting an armed robbery of Junker's Tavern on Langland Avenue shortly after 11 p.m.

Person was shot in the head and remained in critical condition Friday afternoon at University Hospital. Hester, police said, fled the bar after his partner was shot. He was found later hiding in the heating shaft of a coin laundry next door. Person was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery. Hester was charged with one count of aggravated robbery.

But police also charged McKinney with felonious assault and carrying a weapon inside a tavern. He remains in the Hamilton County Justice Center on no bond. He will be arraigned at 9 a.m. today in Hamilton County Municipal Court.

Police said Friday that COPP members are told plainly that they are never to carry weapons and to never intervene in a crime in progress.

"When he did that, he was not a member of COPP,'' said Officer Eric Franz, who trains COPP members in how to patrol their neighborhoods. "He was just a guy in a bar.''

All the COPP recruits are told "over and over again'' that they are not to try to stop criminals themselves: They are supposed to call the police.

The motto of the COPP program is straightforward: "See it, hear it, report it.''

COPP volunteers go through a 20-hour training program that includes 12 hours of classroom work and eight hours of "ride-alongs" with Cincinnati police officers.

Franz said he does not know McKinney well but said he remembers him going through the training.

"I don't know what this guy was thinking," Franz said.

"Whatever he did, he did on his own. It has nothing to do with what has been a successful program. These people have been our eyes and ears."

Thursday night, McKinney was one of a handful of patrons in the bar when two men in hoods that hid their faces walked in waving handguns.

One of them, according to witnesses, pointed a gun at a 68-year-old woman who was tending bar and shouted, "This is a robbery. Nobody move.''

Todman Emmons, 39, of Northside was standing at the bar talking to his roommate and McKinney when the two gunmen entered.

At first, he said, he thought it was a joke, but it became very real when one of the men wheeled around and pointed a gun directly in his face.

"It was all over real quick,'' Emmons said. "The one guy was pointing a gun at me and the other guy was behind the bar, trying to open the register. Then, Hal (McKinney) pulls his gun and shoots.''

Emmons and his roommate held the wounded man on the floor of the bar until police arrived minutes later. Police found the $16 one of the robbers had taken off the bar.

Emmons said he knew McKinney was a member of the neighborhood's citizen patrol. "He's always been a real good member of the community,'' he said.

He has mixed feeling about what transpired at Junker's.

If the armed robbers hadn't been stopped, Emmons said, "a lot of innocent people might have been hurt. It could have been a whole lot worse than it was.

"I can't condone what (McKinney) did,'' he said, "but I can't condemn it either.''


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