Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Man is charged in window incident

Police supervisor downplays HIV threat

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A distraught, naked man who fell through a plate-glass window in the 1300 block of Main Street in Over-the-Rhine on Saturday has been charged with criminal damaging for breaking the window.

        Although the charge was only a misdemeanor, the weekend incident stirred up controversy over the level of risk arresting officers faced in their possible exposure to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

        Some officials said the suspect told police he was HIV-positive, although neither hospital, police nor other officials would confirm it.

        The four officers are under the command of Capt. Vince Demasi, who is head of District 1, the busiest in the Cincinnati Police Division. He says the incident has been misrepresented from the way the man was arrested to his possible infection with HIV.

        “This was a relatively routine type situation,” Capt. Demasi said.

        “We have no information whatsoever that the man has HIV or that he doesn't have HIV.”

        He said officers responded to several 911 calls Saturday night after the man in his 20s jumped through a plate glass window.

        “The individual was pinned to the ground by a civilian when officers arrived,” Capt. Demasi said. “He had multiple cuts, including an arterial cut on his wrist.”

        While some said the officers were covered in blood, Capt. Demasi said it wasn't to the extent that was reported. The officers did have some blood on their hands and arms, he said.

        “We didn't have any blood splashing in anybody's eyes,” he said. “We didn't have blood splashing in anybody's nose. (And) it was a small amount on the uniforms.”

        But police union president Keith Fangman — who has been calling for new equipment to subdue suspects since the incident occurred — says officials are trying to minimize the issue.

        “I spoke personally with the officers who made the arrests,” he said. “They had a significant amount of blood on their hands and arms.

        “I know two of the officers whose shirts were described to me, by the officers, as being ... "soaked in blood' and had to be thrown away. If Captain Demasi believes that this is a minimal exposure, I think a lot of police officers would disagree.”

        He said the city doesn't want to provide Tasers, nonlethal restraining devices, to every officer.

        In order to contract HIV, the virus must get into the victim's bloodstream. For that to happen, the bodily fluid of an infected person must enter an open cut or through mucous membranes of another person.

        According to officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is not possible for the virus to pass through unbroken skin.

        Police will not say whether the officers have been tested for the virus.

        It is always at the officer's discretion to take an HIV test. The police division does not require it.

        The results of such tests are not made available to the public.


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