Saturday, May 17, 2003

No indictment in bar shooting

Allen: Grand jury sending a message

By Sharon Turco and Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Todman Emmons (left) and Rick Wiggins, both of Northside, sit at Junker's Tavern on Friday. Earlier they had testified before a grand jury about the shooting of a robbery suspect last week at the tavern.
(Jeff Swinger photos)
| ZOOM |
Harold McKinney didn't do anything wrong when he shot a robbery suspect in a Northside bar last week, a Hamilton County grand jury determined Friday.

The grand jury ignored charges of felonious assault and carrying a gun in a liquor establishment brought by Cincinnati police against McKinney, a member of Citizens on Patrol.

The shooting victim and his accomplice, accused of robbing Junker's Tavern at gunpoint May 8, didn't get off so easy.

The men, both 18 and from Walnut Hills, were each charged with nine counts of robbery, and one was charged with having a weapon when he was not allowed to have one.

McKinney, 54, was not on patrol at the time.

More than 500 members of the Citizens on Patrol Program walk the streets of 21 Cincinnati neighborhoods on the lookout for crime. Members are never to carry weapons or intervene in a crime in progress; however, McKinney was in the bar as a patron, not a program member.

[IMAGE] Tony Coyne, owner of Junker's Tavern in Northside, reacts with a thumbs-up as he hears the news about Harold McKinney
Grand jury proceedings are secret, but Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen surmised members might have been trying to send a message.

"People in this community are fed up," Allen said. "This is a community that has had it with violent crime, and this individual took action."

Junker's regulars who were in the bar on the night McKinney shot Joseph Person testified before the grand jury Friday afternoon. They didn't learn of McKinney's fate until getting back to the bar Friday night. Their reaction was an instantaneous mixture of relief and excitement.

"Thank God!" said Rick Wiggins, 35, giving a thumbs-up sign. "He absolutely did the right thing. If there was a Harold McKinney on every block in Cincinnati, then there would be a lot less crime in this city. If it wasn't for Harold, we'd be dead."

Person and DeMeico Hester were each indicted on five counts of aggravated robbery with gun specifications and four counts of robbery.

Hester, who has a felony conviction for trafficking in cocaine and is not permitted to possess a firearm, was also indicted on a charge of having a weapon under disability.

If convicted, the men each face a sentence of up to 53 years in prison on the robbery charges.

Two patrons who were there during the robbery at Junker's Tavern recounted what happened Friday.

The two suspects stormed into the place and immediately pulled weapons; one shoved a gun into the face of the bartender and the other confronted Todman Emmons.

McKinney had only been in the bar a few minutes, regulars said, just stopping in on his way home.

"It was crazy. They were crazy," Emmons said. "The whole thing happened extremely quick. But at the time, it seemed to last forever. It didn't seem real at first."

After McKinney drew and fired at Person, Hester ran into the back of the bar, through a back door into an adjacent laundry. Police found him hiding in a heating duct.

Person was shot in the neck and was released from the hospital this week.

Emmons said there is no doubt in his mind that McKinney did the right thing. "He saved my life. It was 11:15 on a Thursday night. How much money did those guys think they were going to get, anyway?"

A police officer and three witnesses testified before the grand jury Friday.

The law regarding self-defense and defense of others, which says a person has the right to use force in defense of himself and others, was explained to jurors.

"They were given a full explanation of the law and then they made a decision," Allen said.

McKinney's attorney, Mark Naegel, said, "The grand jury made a courageous decision. They listened to the evidence that was presented and they used some insight in making their decision."

McKinney's actions were necessary, and he made sure nobody but the perpetrator was injured, Naegel said.

"This wasn't a shootout," Naegel said. "(The suspects) were threatening other people in the tavern. Harm may have been imminent."

McKinney, who lives about a block from the bar, hasn't been seen in the neighborhood since the shooting. Though he once patrolled the neighborhoods regularly and tried to recruit residents into the Citizens on Patrol Program, he has left the area. His house is locked up, and Junker's regulars aren't saying where he went.

"He's moved out for a while. We haven't seen him since that night," said Tony Coyne, owner of Junker's. "Under the circumstances, and the split second he had to think about it, I know he did the right thing. He had an opportunity to act and he did."

The suspects are being held in the Hamilton County Jail. Person, who also has two pending misdemeanor cases, is being held on $1 million bail; Hester is being held on $300,000 bail.

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