Sunday, December 30, 2001

Summer of blood: Guns rule the streets


As police back away, criminals get bold and killings become common. A wounded child breaks the stalemate, and a mother's plea for peace is respected...

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The young man pulled a pistol from his waistband and walked slowly across Dryden Avenue.

        He was headed toward a wrecked Honda CRV, which he had just chased across town in his Ford Escort. The Honda was on its side in someone's front yard.

        Neighbors stood on their doorsteps or sidewalks, watching. Moments before, they had been watering their lawns, walking their dogs.

        It was a beautiful July evening in Pleasant Ridge.

        The man, who police say was 23-year-old Montez ""E Money'' Taylor, leaned into the Honda, pointed his gun at the two men trapped inside and shot them both to death. Then the man jogged back to his car and drove off.

        The shooting was one of the most brazen acts of violence in a summer when violence became routine. There were 23 homicides in Cincinnati this summer, 61 for the year so far. In all of 2000, there were 40.

        After the riots, the city had in some ways ceased to function as a community. Blacks remained suspicious of police. Police, embittered by criticism, responded with a work slowdown. Except for emergency runs, they basically withdrew from several urban neighborhoods.


Map and number of shootings in each neighborhhod since April 13, 2001
| ZOOM |
        Criminals quickly filled the void. Street corners and sidewalks became battlegrounds, sometimes in broad daylight, as drug dealers and thugs fought turf wars.

        At times, it seemed the violence might tear the city apart, just as the riots had done months earlier.

        Some citizens criticized police for seeming to allow a situation where blacks were killing blacks. Others wondered why the African-American clergy, so quick to denounce the police, weren't doing more to stem violence in black neighborhoods.

        The violence peaked on July 24 with the shooting in Pleasant Ridge, a normally quiet, middle-class neighborhood. The next day, as one of her neighbors hosed the dead men's blood off her sidewalk, Judy Hardin worried about the future of her city.

        "It makes me feel really sad that this is what our city is coming to," she said. "I just don't understand."

        In some neighborhoods, the violence was relentless. Over-the-Rhine residents heard gunfire almost daily. Drug deals were made in full view of passersby.

        Jerry Dubose, who runs the Lord's Gym at Walnut and Liberty streets, was walking down Vine Street one day in July when he saw a group of young men drag a table into the street.

        They set up shop on the curb and started peddling drugs. "It was like they were saying, "Who's gonna stop us?" Mr. Dubose recalls.

        They certainly weren't worried about the police. The number of arrests and traffic stops dropped sharply. The police union leader, Keith Fangman, suggested that being more aggressive would put officers at risk of becoming scapegoats.

        "If you want to make 20 traffic stops a shift and chase every dope dealer you see, you go right ahead," he wrote in a newsletter. "Just remember that if something goes wrong, or you make the slightest mistake in that split second, it could result in having your worst nightmare come true for you and your family, and City Hall will sell you out."

        The violence continued to escalate. Two days before the Pleasant Ridge shooting, a 2-year-old boy was critically wounded when he was caught in the cross-fire of a shootout in Over-the-Rhine.

        The city, and its leaders, recoiled at the sight of the little boy in intensive care.

        Police Chief Tom Streicher decided to create a task force to stop the violence. But first he had to convince his officers.

        He met privately with the 42 men and women on the task force and promised to back them up if they were criticized for using force on the job.

        "Rely on your training," he told them. "Use force if you have to, and I'll support you."

        Many in the community, including those who had been critical of police, welcomed the officers back. For the first time since the riots, a fragile truce seemed to emerge. Everyone agreed the bloodshed had to stop.

        The truce was tested almost immediately, when 21-year-old Rickey Moore was shot and killed by a white police officer in Millvale. Mr. Moore had a history of mental problems. He was shot as he walked up and down a street threatening people with a shotgun.

        He was the first black man killed by police since Timothy Thomas' death ignited the riots.

        More than 150 people gathered that night for a candlelight vigil. As the crowd grew, Mr. Moore's mother rose to speak. She was worried about more violence, more riots.

        "I'm not going to have that,'' she said. ""I want it to come to an end. I want people to pray."

        And for several hours that night, they did. Then they made their way home in peace.



Cincinnati 2001: Year of Unrest
Prologue to turmoil: "A very tense time"
The trigger: Shooting 'ignites furious response'
The riots explode: A city's dark week
- Summer of blood - guns rule the streets
Tests of justice: Officers acquitted
Binding wounds: What can be done?
What comes next?: Good examples few
WARD BUSHEE: A chance to talk honestly ... and to act
2001: A timeline
Unrest photo timeline
Jim Borgman on race

 
Local Voices
Jerry Dubose
Jerry Dubose, runs Lord's Gym in Over-the-Rhine

    Jerry Dubose thought his anger was gone.

    Years ago, he traded his life as a street hustler for the life of a Bible study teacher. He traded bitterness and resentment for love and forgiveness.

    So Mr. Dubose was surprised when the death of Timothy Thomas stirred up those old, ugly feelings toward police and the world around him.

    He realized for the first time how easy it was for anger to consume a good man, to lead him astray.

    "I felt myself being drawn into the old me," he says.

    He felt it most strongly at a protest march, while walking past a blockade of police officers on horseback. One of the officers glared at him, staring him down.

    Mr. Dubose, 53, is a big man, a weight lifter who runs the Lord's Gym in Over-the-Rhine. He refused to be intimidated. He glared right back at the cop.

    Neither said a word, but the rage Mr. Dubose felt in that moment frightened him. He regretted it almost immediately.

    "I try to react to problems in a Godly way," he says.

    He prayed for a chance to do better.

    A few days later, while standing outside the gym, Mr. Dubose noticed a police cruiser parked nearby. He walked over and tapped on the window.

    "Can I help you?" the officer asked.

    "I just want you to know," Mr. Dubose said, extending a hand, "that I appreciate what you're doing."