by John Nolan, Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) - A former Cincinnati police officer who
fatally shot an unarmed black man in an alley last year improperly
handled his handgun and gave investigators conflicting statements
about what happened, Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. told the
City Council on Tuesday.
Officer Stephen Roach, who is white, cannot be disciplined by
Cincinnati because he quit the department in January to work in a
suburban police force, said Pat DeWine, chairman of the council's
Public Safety Committee.
But both mishandling a gun and giving conflicting or misleading
statements to investigators violates police regulations, Streicher
told the committee.
If Roach still worked for Cincinnati, he could have been fired
unless he produced new evidence in his favor at a disciplinary
hearing, Streicher told the council committee.
Roach, 27, was acquitted at a trial of criminal charges in the
April 7, 2001, shooting of Timothy Thomas, 19.
Streicher's disclosure Tuesday was the first time results of an
internal investigation of the Thomas shooting were released to the
public. Streicher said the investigation began after Roach's
September acquittal in the criminal trial.
Streicher issued a one-page statement that did not mention
Roach by name. It said that dishonesty by any member of the
Cincinnati Police Department would result in a recommendation for
"Dishonesty tears at the very fabric of our society, erodes the
public confidence in our police department and casts a shadow of
suspicion upon our individual police officers," Streicher said.
"Dishonesty cannot and will not be tolerated in our
The internal police report given to the council said Roach told
homicide investigators the day of the shooting that he
intentionally shot Thomas because he believed Thomas to be a
Three days later, on April 10, homicide investigators
interviewed Roach a second time. During that interview, he said
the shooting was an accident, and that he had not intentionally
fired, the report said.
Under police regulations, an officer is not to put a finger
inside his gun's trigger guard until the officer has taken aim and
is ready to "engage a threat." But Roach had to have had his
finger on the trigger for the gun to discharge, investigators
"The circumstances on April 7, 2001, involved a high-risk
situation in a threat-filled environment, justifying a high level
of preparedness by Officer Roach," Streicher said.
"However, based on Officer Roach's statements and the evidence
reviewed, he imprudently handled his firearm and unintentionally
discharged his firearm when abruptly confronted by Mr. Thomas," he
The shooting of Thomas, who was running from police trying to
arrest him for 14 misdemeanor warrants, led to protests, three
days of rioting and a federal investigation of Cincinnati police
Roach had been on the Cincinnati police force since 1997. His
hiring by Evendale village officials was met with protests and an
effort to have the hiring rescinded.
Evendale officials have said that Roach was the best-qualified
candidate for the opening on the village police department, and
that administrative actions such as hirings are not subject to a
referendum by voters.
Roach did not return a telephone message left Tuesday with the
police department in suburban Evendale, which hired him in January
as a police officer. His attorney, Merlyn Shiverdecker, said he
had obtained a copy of the Cincinnati police report and would
review it with Roach before deciding whether to publicly
The Rev. Damon Lynch III, a black clergyman who has accused
Cincinnati police of using excessive force against black people,
listened Tuesday as the police chief presented the report to the
"It's a travesty of justice," Lynch said.
Thomas' mother, Angela Leisure, has a civil lawsuit pending in
U.S. District Court against Roach and the city of Cincinnati,
demanding unspecified money damages.
Her lawyer, Kenneth Lawson, listened to the police chief's
report Tuesday and said it won't affect Leisure's lawsuit.
The police chief said his department will need another month or
two to complete its investigation of the November 2000 death of
Roger Owensby Jr., 29, another black man who died in an encounter
with Cincinnati police. Two white police officers were cleared
last fall of criminal charges in the death.
The trials delayed the police internal investigation, Streicher
told the council.