Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Friend: Jones was 'good man'

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORTHSIDE - At nearly 350 pounds, Nathaniel Jones was a hulking man, but not a violent one, his close friend and roommate said Monday.

Click to view an Acrobat PDF file (168k) showing a detailed timeline of the police encounter with Nathaniel Jones.
(Randy Mazzola infographic)
Jeff Thompson, 46, who shared a Hanfield Street apartment with Jones, said the video footage of Jones hitting police officers early Sunday at a North Avondale White Castle and officers striking back with metal batons did not fully portray his best friend.

"He was a good man. I never saw him angry," said Thompson, who has known Jones since they were kids in Cincinnati. "A lot of people confuse being big and hulking with being menacing, but that's not the real person he was deep down inside.''

Jones, known to friends and family as "Skip," likely stopped at the White Castle on his way back from Cleveland, where he had dropped off a friend Saturday night, Thompson said. The friend had been in town Friday night for a Too Short rap concert at the Ritz in Roselawn.

Jones knew a woman who worked at the White Castle, Thompson added.

Jones, 41, suffered from narcolepsy - a sleep disorder that can cause frequent and unexpected dips into unconsciousness. It's a condition that could have resulted in paramedics initially being called to the restaurant on Mitchell Avenue about a man asleep on the grass, he said.

Jones died after a violent struggle with Cincinnati officers who were called by paramedics.

Thompson described Jones as a devoted father of two sons - Nate, 14 and Tyrique, 11 - both of whom lived with their mother in Cleveland. His grandmother was the only family he had locally, Thompson said. She could not be reached for comment Monday.

"He was a good father. His kids knew who their dad was and they never wanted for anything - even though he didn't live with them," Thompson said.

He and Jones grew up together in Cincinnati and Jones graduated from Woodward High School. Jones recently lost his job as a night resident at a group home, Thompson said. The two worked together on a cleanup crew at an Applebee's restaurant, he said, and at one time Jones was a bodyguard for the well-known R&B group LeVert.

Jones loved to fix up old cars and owned a maroon 1965 Delta 88. Bowling also was a passion.

Court records show Jones pleaded guilty in 1998 to possessing cocaine and was given three years probation, which included treatment at Talbert House. A month after his sentencing, Jones violated probation and was sentenced to a year in jail.

Thompson said he knew of his friend's prior criminal record, but never observed him taking drugs or doing anything illegal. Thompson said Jones had recently talked about turning his life around and going to church.

Thompson said his friend never spoke of a heart ailment.

"I'm angry about it," Thompson said of his friend's death. "If I'd been with him that night, he would still be alive.

"Whatever caused him to swing at those officers, I think I would have been able to keep him from doing it," he said. "We looked out for each other like that."


E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com

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