Autopsy contradicts claims of suspect shot, then beaten, by Ohio officers

Jim Nichols, Plain Dealer Reporter
Plain Dealer
Copyright 2006 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.

Witnesses claim that Cleveland police beat a mortally wounded man seconds after an officer shot him on Cleveland's East Side Saturday, but the county coroner said an autopsy found no signs of a beating.

"There were no bruises - no other injuries other than the gunshot wounds," Cuyahoga County Coroner Elizabeth Balraj said Sunday.

She also discounted contentions that Cleveland patrolman Rick Delvecchio shot Henry Bell, 19, in the back. Bell had a bullet wound on the right side of his chest, another in the left side just behind his chest and a graze wound on his forehead, Balraj said.

Police say Delvecchio shot Bell shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday when the fleeing suspect drew a .38-caliber revolver from his waistband.

That ended a foot chase through the Garden Valley Estates housing complex near East 79th Street and Kinsman Road.

Activists from Black on Black Crime Inc. held a news conference at the shooting site Sunday, saying eyewitnesses told them Bell never drew his gun before Delvecchio shot him.

The witnesses at the news conference acknowledged that they did not see the shooting nor what occurred before it. Yet four women who live at Garden Valley claimed to have seen the immediate aftermath: police throwing Bell against a brick wall, then kicking and pummeling him. The gun fell from Bell's waistband after police subdued him, the women said.

"He wasn't holding a gun - they ripped his shirt open and that's when it fell out," said Marcia Heard, who said she heard gunshots and looked out her window to see police kicking Bell.

Fellow resident Nina Moss said, "Maybe you could justify the shooting. But after they shot him, they stomped him. How are you going to justify that?"

Lt. Thomas Stacho, the Cleveland police spokesman, said he had no comment on those claims, saying that the Use of Deadly Force investigation team's probe is ongoing and thatpolice had not interviewed Delvecchio yet. Stacho encouraged eyewitnesses to the events to call the homicide unit.

Residents and members of Black on Black Crime said the FBI should investigate. "We can't have the police investigating the police," said Alvin Brooks, the group's spokesman.

Brooks and several Garden Valley residents also demanded that the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority provide investigators with video recordings from several security cameras attached to the buildings in the complex.

Police said Delvecchio was responding to a call of shots fired at Garden Valley when he tried to pull over two men in a beat-up white car. The car sped away for half a mile before Bell and Roderick Mallett, 26, ran from it in separate directions. Police arrested Mallett moments after Bell was shot.

Both suspects recently served time together at the Lorain Correctional Institution. Bell was sentenced last November to nine months for assault, while Mallett was sentenced in September 2005 to 11 months for drug charges.

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