By Kevin Aldridge and William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WALNUT HILLS - More than 500 people packed Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Church Wednesday night to view the videos of the fatal struggle between police officers and Nathaniel Jones.
The images of police officers repeatedly hitting Jones, 41, with nightsticks drew a chorus of groans from the audience. Some cried. Others could barely watch.
"I had to turn away. They didn't have any mercy," said Earlene James, 59, of Madeira. "I just want to know what he did wrong. I didn't see it in the video. All I saw was a beating."
Others viewing the footage of Jones' confrontation with police officers in a White Castle parking lot in North Avondale early Sunday also had questions. Residents stood in line for a chance to comment and question top city officials who were present at the meeting.
"There had to be a different way," Roy Jones, 31, of Oakley, told the panel, which included Police Chief Tom Streicher, Fire Chief Robert Wright and City Manager Valerie Lemmie. Jones suggested that police review procedures for use of force when making an arrest.
Candace Tubbs, 36, of Avondale, said she'd like to see city officials acknowledge that the police officers may have done something wrong without worrying about possible financial liability by the city.
Even if the city were found liable, it "wouldn't be any worse" than the tens of millions the city gave to Convergys to keep its headquarters downtown, she said.
The meeting, organized by the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, was designed to keep the public informed about the incident and next steps in the investigation.
"One of the things we learned from 2001 (riots) is that we needed to get information out as quickly and as accurately as possible," said Cecil Thomas, executive director of the human relations commission. "That will allow for people to make an informed decision and draw their own conclusions based on all the facts as we have them."
Lemmie told the audience that a criminal and internal investigation was being conducted by the Cincinnati Police Department and that the U.S. Department of Justice might conduct a separate investigation into any alleged civil rights violations in the case. She also pointed to an independent investigation being conducted by the Citizens Complaint Authority, which is to be completed in 90 days.
"The key for us is to learn how to continue to enhance the relationship between police and the community," she said.
Streicher tried to address concerns from residents that he had already exonerated officers before all the investigations were completed.
"Nobody including myself can rush to judgment on any single aspect of this instance," Streicher said. "The investigations are far from over. We're not anywhere near reaching final judgment on any of these issues."
Wright told the crowd that a disciplinary hearing would be held for the paramedic supervisor who made the decision to leave the scene shortly after police arrived. The fire chief said the supervisor told him he feels partly responsible for Jones' death.
"He just did not make a proper assessment, in my opinion," Wright said.
Many left the two-hour meeting feeling unsatisfied.
"You treat a cow better than a human being," said a woman, who left the church sanctuary with tears in her eyes, expressing frustration with the panel's answers. "You gave a cow the key to the city."
The Cincinnati Baptist Ministers Alliance called for a peaceful march to protest the death of Nathaniel Jones. The march will begin Sunday at 2 p.m. at City Hall. All Cincinnati citizens are invited.
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