Sunday, May 18, 2003

Lack of indictment draws reaction



By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Northside residents offered opinions - and some money - Saturday in the wake of a Hamilton County grand jury's decision not to indict Harold McKinney for shooting a robbery suspect during a recent tavern holdup.

Junker's Tavern was crowded for an afternoon fund-raising event for McKinney's legal expenses.

Jim Shelton dropped $5 into the donation bucket. The Northside man said he had mixed feelings about McKinney not facing criminal charges after he thwarted an armed robbery by two men. McKinney shot one suspect in the neck with a handgun that he had brought into the bar.

"He done wrong by carrying a gun into a tavern. That's against the law and they should have charged him for having that gun," Shelton said. "But on the other hand, I liked what he did with that gun."

The grand jury on Friday ignored charges of felonious assault and carrying a gun into a liquor establishment brought against McKinney, who is a member of Citizens on Patrol. He was not on patrol at the time of the robbery.

The shooting victim, Joseph Person, was shot in the neck and was released from a hospital last week.

Person and DeMeico Hester were each indicted on five counts of aggravated robbery with gun specifications and four counts of robbery. If convicted, the men each face up to 53 years in prison on the robbery charges.

McKinney was not available for comment Saturday. Neighbors said he has left town at least temporarily in the aftermath of the incident.

Tony Coyne, owner of Junker's, echoed the sentiments many in the bar hold for McKinney as "a great guy."

Coyne bristled at the complaints of some in the neighborhood that race was an issue in the shooting. McKinney is white and the robbery suspects are African-American .

"Are they suggesting that if they were white criminals we wouldn't have protected ourselves? What would they do if someone stuck a loaded gun at their head?" Coyne said.

But nearby at a Northside Community-Police Outreach Festival in Hoffner Park, Northside resident Winifred Beam Kessler criticized McKinney.

"I wish he had the skills to talk (the robbers) down rather than to try and mow them down," said Kessler, who is a former official with the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.

"If we just glorify a guy who packs a gun into a bar," the neighborhood and the city will be worse off, she said, adding that she hopes the incident is "a wake-up call for the neighborhood and the entire city ... that we need deeper human relations training" to encourage better race relations.

Northside resident Norman Johnson, a Xavier University graduate student attending the festival, said he thought McKinney should have at least been charged for possessing a firearm in a tavern, but "as far as his prevention of a robbery, I have to tip my hat to him."

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com

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