Prosecutor clears Cincinnati police in death

/ Source: The Associated Press

Police committed no crimes during a videotaped fight with a black man who died after lunging at officers as they took him into custody, a prosecutor said Monday.

“It is my decision that this case is now closed and will not be presented to a grand jury,” prosecutor Michael Allen said.

A police cruiser camera videotape showed that the 350-pound Nathaniel Jones knocked over one officer in the Nov. 30 fight before police jabbed or struck him at least a dozen times with metal nightsticks for several minutes until he was handcuffed.

The tape showed the officers warning Jones to stay back before he lunged at one officer and knocked him over. Jones, 41, died shortly after the struggle.

The corner said Jones suffered from an enlarged heart, obesity and had intoxicating levels of cocaine, PCP and methanol in his blood.

The case heightened racial tensions in Cincinnati, which was rocked by race riots in 2001 after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed fleeing black suspect. The officer was cleared of criminal charges at trial.

A federal investigation of that shooting and a lawsuit by black activists who accused Cincinnati of 30 years of harassing black people led to a 2002 agreement between Cincinnati and the Justice Department to tighten policies governing the use of force. The city also agreed to improve handling of citizen complaints against police.

The officers who responded in Jones’ case — five whites and one black — were put on administrative leave for a week while the death was investigated, then were returned to patrol duty, police said.

Activists claimed the officers provoked Jones into attacking them, but two witnesses said that did not happen, police union leaders have said.

As a result of the Jones death, the City Council voted in December to equip all police officers with stun guns as an alternative for subduing suspects.

Jones’ family hired a lawyer to independently investigate the death, adding to an internal police probe and another by a citizens’ panel. The Justice Department also has said it was gathering information.