Wednesday, February 18, 1998
Compassion outshines hate

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Not one, but dozens, of people came forward.

They called. They walked up to cops and spoke on the QT. They had the courage and the morals to do what was right.

Their tips helped police arrest two men in the beating of a Miami University student.

It was on Martin Luther King Day that Christopher Jason Kindinger, a Miami sophomore, was jumped from behind and brutally beaten - apparently because he's black.

The outpouring of tips and leads reminds us of what it means to live in a community, in the best sense of the word.

We are reminded that if one person is in danger, no one is safe. We are reminded that if everyone takes responsibility, we will be OK - even in the face of hate and violence.

After my Monday morning column last week on the beating - and the flurry of TV news stories that followed that night - Oxford police and the FBI received 50 or more tips from citizens and assistance from 13 other area police departments.

''A lot of good information came from beyond Oxford, from Cincinnati and Dayton,'' said Oxford police Chief Steve Schwein. ''If it had not been for the high-profile coverage from the Enquirer and other media outlets, it would have remained an in-town story and we might not have been able to make these arrests.''

The first arrest came Monday night. Jeffrey Eberle, a 19-year-old from Loveland, was picked up in Milford.

The second arrest came around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Eighteen-year-old Steve Cole was arrested at his home in Oxford. Police point to him as the man who beat Jason's face to a pulp.

The car apparently used in the attack has been impounded. Two other people were in the car that night. They have been interviewed by police.

''They have not been charged,'' said Chief Schwein. ''They are going to be witnesses.''

In other words, they are singing like canaries.

Steve Cole and Jeffrey Eberle offered no resistance when they were arrested. Both were charged with felonious assault.

Both were allegedly tripped up by two common mistakes made by most gutless cowards who commit hate crimes.

''People who do these things will brag about them,'' said Chief Schwein. ''That's often their first mistake.''

The second mistake is that they're usually repeat offenders. ''When someone commits such a brutal crime, this is usually not the first time they've done something like this.''

One tipster contacted police after overhearing two thugs bragging about the beating. Another tip included information about a suspect's history of attacking blacks.

The tips and the arrests are some comfort to Jason Kindinger, and reassurance to the rest of us.

That two suspects have been arrested, said Todd Teismann, a Talbert House counselor who works with victims of violent crime, ''could help the healing process'' for Jason and his family. ''Knowing these people are not going to be able to do this again to him or to someone else could help him put his life back together. He won't be looking over his shoulder wondering what's going to happen next.''

Jason and his family may also be reassured, said Mr. Teismann, that ''there are more good people out there than bad.''

So should all of us.

We are bombarded with sad, scary crime stories every day. In many cases, police have a tough time finding anyone who saw anything. In this case, the community's response made me feel very good about this place we call home.

People still want to get involved. Decent folks outnumber the scum.

And citizens willing to step forward with information act as a warning to criminals, like those ''Neighborhood Watch'' signs you see posted on some corners.

People are watching. And those people care.

It's a good feeling.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

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