Saturday, September 20, 2003

Street crime comes to the crime fighter's doorstep

Peter Bronson

When Clarence Eugene Bradshaw made the Most Wanted list last December for aggravated assault and kidnapping, his mug shot had the sleepy eyes and raised eyebrows of the "Yeah, so what?" brass-knuckles look that tough guys put on when they fight the law and the law wins.

It's hard to tell who won this one.

The law didn't win. Bradshaw was in and out of cellblocks and courtrooms since his crimes went on the record at age 18: aggravated robbery, drug possession, driving on a suspended license, assaults, cocaine possession, marijuana trafficking and domestic violence are some of the charges in nearly two dozen cases cited in the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts files.

Bradshaw didn't win, either.

He was shot down in the street on Sept. 7 - capping a lifetime that was summarized in three inches of type on Page 2 briefs: "Police make quick arrest in slaying." He was Cincinnati's 44th homicide of the year.

What makes his slaying different from 43 others is the witnesses. Police said Bradshaw, 26, was arguing with Bryant Gaines, also 26, when witnesses saw Gaines shoot Bradshaw several times. It happened on Greenwood Street in Avondale, in front of Bradshaw's home, just two doors from the home of city council candidate Tom Jones, who was also a witness.

"I heard the argument," Jones said. "I heard something that sounded like a firecracker, then I heard four more and I knew they were not firecrackers."

He ran to the scene. "One of the guys standing there was a brother of the guy who got shot," he said. "The people there had to have seen the whole thing. But nobody was saying anything."

So Jones spent about eight hours being interviewed by the police. The police arrested Gaines by 10 a.m. the same day of the midnight shooting. But they said other suspects might be involved.

And that could make Jones a candidate for the witness protection program he's been advocating at City Hall.

"The problem is this unwritten code among people who are in the life," he said. The drug gangs take the law into their own hands, and that silences witnesses and paralyzes neighborhoods.

Jones knows about crime in Avondale. He's been battling to clean up the streets there for years. He has organized rallies, and set up a crime-watchers headquarters on Burnet Avenue to report crimes and watch drug dealers who rule the streets.

He has been shot at and threatened. He has been praised as a courageous black leader who is confronting crime and repudiating the "racism" blame game. Author Heather MacDonald, who wrote about Jones in national magazine articles about Cincinnati's riots, will come to town to help Jones raise money for his campaign next Wednesday at Cintas Center.

The event could be more anti-crime than a pro-Tom Jones campaign - which is a long shot, at best.

That "Yeah, so what?" look on Bradshaw's face could be the story of his life. It also describes the attitude at City Hall toward crime - until elections rolled around.

I don't know what Bradshaw would tell his brothers if he could talk to them now. But it might sound like something Jones said:

"I saw his so-called friends robbing (Bradshaw) after he had fallen. With friends like that, who needs enemies."

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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