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NAACP may sue over death in custody

The NAACP may file a federal civil rights lawsuit over the case of a black man who died after being subdued in a struggle with Cincinnati police in November.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Police used excessive force in subduing a 350-pound black man who died shortly after the struggle, a civil rights leader said Wednesday.

A pathologist concluded that Nathaniel Jones suffocated during the struggle, said Calvert Smith, chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, at a news conference.

Smith said the pathologist’s results show that police must share responsibility for Jones’ death. He said the NAACP was considering a federal civil rights lawsuit.

A prosecutor closed the case March 22, saying an investigation persuaded him that police committed no crimes.

Smith said the NAACP hired its own forensic pathologist, who concluded that Jones, 41, suffocated during the struggle with the officers.

“This reflects a pattern of behavior by the police that has resulted in the deaths of too many African-American men in this city,” Smith said.

Jones was at least the 19th black man to die in violent confrontations with Cincinnati police since 1995. Police union leaders said the men who died threatened officers with weapons.

Jones’ struggle with police occurred Nov. 30 in a fast-food restaurant parking lot. A videotape from a police car showed Jones knocking over one officer before officers jabbed or struck him two dozen times with nightsticks for almost three minutes until he was handcuffed.

The officers — five whites and one black — were put on administrative leave for a week and then returned to duty.

Smith said the NAACP report found that Jones bears some responsibility for his death because he had consumed drugs that could produce combative behavior.

A state autopsy also concluded that Jones died as a result of the struggle but said his death was triggered by an enlarged heart and obesity and that he had intoxicating levels of cocaine, PCP and alcohol in his blood.