Saturday, April 21, 2001

Grand jury indicts 63 in looting, violence

Prosecutor Allen expects more arrests

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Hamilton County grand jury Friday indicted 63 people on felony charges related to the unrest in Cincinnati last week.

        The violence followed the April 7 shooting death of an unarmed 19-year-old African-American man by a Cincinnati police officer.

        It was the worst racial unrest in the city since disturbances following the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn.

        Dozens were injured, more than 800 arrests were made and arson damage was put at more than $250,000.

Mike Allen
Mike Allen
        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said he expects more charges as investigators begin tracking down suspects in several attacks on motorists.

        Authorities are focusing on the assault of Robert Stearns, a white Louisville truck driver, by at least 20 black males on April 10.

        Mr. Stearns was dragged from his truck and beaten as he was making a delivery of safety glass on West 15th Street in Over-the-Rhine.

        Calling the assault one of several “senseless assaults ... by roving bands of criminals,” Mr. Allen said his office subpoenaed videotape from television stations in order to identify suspects and witnesses to the attack.

        Photographs of the suspects and witnesses have been turned over to Crime Stoppers, which offers rewards for information.

        Mr. Stearns did not suffer life-threatening injuries. He told prosecutors that he “never felt so much hate in (his) life” that night, Mr. Allen said.

        He said some of the offenses still being investigated may be subject to “hate crimes” prosecution, meaning people convicted would be subject to harsher punishment.

        He added that if state statutes prove to be limited, he will refer those cases to the U.S. attorney as federal hate crimes.

        Friday's indictments came from 42 of 44 cases the grand jury began reviewing Monday. Some of the cases had multiple defendants. All but one of the defendants are black, and most are from the Cincinnati area.

        Fifty-eight defendants were charged with breaking and entering in connection with the looting of such Over-the-Rhine businesses as Deveroes, Leader Furniture, Fairway Supermarket, L & S Market, Big Dollar, and Barr's Loan and Pawn Shop.

        Other indictments were for aggravated riot and misdemeanor resisting arrest charges.

        Donald Hope, 20, of Over-the-Rhine, faces the most serious charge, carrying a concealed weapon. He was arrested April 12 at 15th and Republic streets.

        Police also arrested 32 juveniles during the unrest, six of whom Mr. Allen expects to be tried as adults.

        A grand jury could soon begin to hear evidence into the death of Mr. Thomas, whose shooting by Cincinnati Police Officer Steve Roach sparked the unrest.

        The prosecutor said investigators are searching for several witnesses to the 2:15 a.m. incident. They also hope to study an enhanced video of the scene captured by a police cruiser camera. Mr. Allen did not say when the grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the case.

        “I want it to be on the fast track, but I think we have to make sure it says on the fair track as well,” he said.

        The FBI is also investigating the Thomas shooting.

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