Saturday, September 02, 2000

Officer broke with procedure, police say

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Cincinnati police officer Kevin Crayon reached through a car window to stop a 12-year-old driver, he was going against a cardinal rule of police training: Avoid vulnerability.

        Don't get too close to a car. Don't put your hands into a window. Don't reach for a driver's license until it has passed the threshold. Don't even let your tie tip dangle over the sill.

        “Our policy is you don't reach into a vehicle,” said Ted Schoch, director of the Cincinnati Police Academy.

        That doesn't mean an officer will never have to break procedure,— or that Officer Crayon didn't have good reason to do so.

        “I can envision several reasons why he reached into the car,” Mr. Schoch said. “The first being safety.”

        But while most officers are made to explain their actions after breaking a policy, nobody Friday could explain why Officer Crayon made the decision he did.

        After he reached into the car, presumably to grab for the car keys, the 12-year-old sped away. The officer was dragged 800 feet to his death, but not before police say he fatally shot the boy.

        Officer Crayon was the fourth Cincinnati officer since 1998 to become entangled in a car window while attempting to stop a suspect.

        Other instances, according to police accounts:

        • On March 19, 1999, Officers Brent McCurley and Michael Miller stopped a motorist in Northside for driving with expired tags.

        Michael Carpenter, 30, of Mount Airy, was pulled over and refused to get out of the car after failing to produce any identification.

        After a shouting match, Officer Miller opened the door and tried to pull Mr. Carpenter out by the arm, but Mr. Carpenter accelerated, dragging the officer about 15 feet until his car hit a parked van.

        Officer McCurley, who was standing behind the car, said he saw Mr. Carpenter reaching for something, saw the car's backup lights come on and heard the engine rev and began shooting.

        He told police he thought Mr. Carpenter was trying to back over him or drag his partner. Officer McCurley fired nine shots and Officer Miller fired once, killing Mr. Carpenter.

        • On Nov. 6, 1998, a shoplift suspect was paralyzed by an officer's bullet after attempting to drive out of a Kroger parking lot on East McMillan Avenue.

        Alerted by a store guard, Officer Daniel Carder tried to stop Timothy Blair from getting into a car. After struggling, Mr. Blair jumped in his car and swung the door shut.

        Officer Carder punched through the window and tried to remove Mr. Blair. But the car started to move and the officer was dragged. He said he tried Mace before firing twice at Mr. Blair's chest. Mr. Blair slumped over and his foot hit the gas, sending the car careening into a parked van and injuring a toddler standing nearby.

        While the officer was exonerated, police investigators cited him for several errors.

        • On Jan 11, 1998, a man pulled over for a minor traffic infraction turned out to be wanted for felony aggravated robbery.

        When Officer Kelli Finn reached through the open car window, the suspect rolled up the window, trapping her hands, and accelerated. She was dragged 100 feet before getting loose and the suspect was arrested after trying to flee on foot.

        While the police training says officers aren't supposed to reach into a car, city policy says they are not allowed to shoot at moving vehicles unless the driver or passenger uses a gun or weapon other than the vehicle.


        Mr. Schoch said there is no special training for officers to deal with juveniles, saying every encounter needs to be treated as potentially dangerous.

        Edward Latessa, chair of the criminal justice department at the University of Cincinnati, said he knows of no special training.

        “You don't treat one much different from the other,” he said. “Today, juveniles are capable of all kinds of criminal acts.”

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