02/16/2006

Cincinnati officer who shot unarmed black man won't face civil rights charges

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI- Federal authorities decided not to file civil rights charges against a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in 2001, triggering the city's worst racial unrest in decades.

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday closed its investigation of Stephen Roach.

Investigators found inconsistencies in Roach's statements about whether he shot 19-year-old Timothy Thomas accidentally or because he thought Thomas was armed, but decided that wasn't enough to bring charges, authorities said.

"The evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, in this fast-moving, inherently dangerous situation in a dark alley, Officer Roach willfully deprived Mr. Thomas of his constitutional rights," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Wan Kim said.

Roach shot Thomas in April 2001 as Thomas was fleeing police on misdemeanor charges. The shooting touched off rioting that lasted three nights, leaving dozens of people injured. More than 800 were arrested. The riots were quelled only by a citywide curfew.

Roach, 31, was acquitted in September 2001 of all charges in Thomas' death. He left Cincinnati police and joined the force in suburban Evendale.

Roach did not immediately return a telephone message left early Thursday with Evendale police.

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