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Cincy Cops Slammed Over Death

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken is rejecting a demand from black activists that the police chief be forced to resign after a black man died in a fight with the police over the weekend.

Luken said Monday that he agreed with the initial police assessment that officers acted within their training to defend themselves when Nathaniel Jones attacked them. The 350-pound Jones died shortly after the fight in which officers repeatedly hit him with nightsticks after he lunged at the police.

The cause of Jones' death on Sunday was under investigation. But preliminary autopsy results showed that the 41-year-old man had an enlarged heart, and his blood contained cocaine and PCP, or "angel dust," both of which have been associated in some cases with bizarre and violently aggressive behavior, Hamilton County Coroner Carl Parrott said.

Black activists said Jones' death was another example of brutality involving Cincinnati police. The fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in April 2001 prompted three nights of rioting in the city.

"How many of our people have to die before the city decides to do something about it?" said Nathaniel Livingston Jr. of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati.

The officers who were at the scene Sunday — five whites and one black — were placed on administrative leave, which is policy while investigators examine any police encounter that results in a death.

Sunday's confrontation with the 400-pound Jones was videotaped by a camera on a police cruiser. After seeing the video, Luken rejected activists' demand that he force police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. to resign.

"What I saw was a 400-pound man violently attacking a police officer in a manner that put the lives of police officers at risk," Luken said. "While the investigations will continue, there is nothing on those tapes to suggest that the police did anything wrong."

Luken said he agreed with the initial police assessment that the officers who struggled with Jones defended themselves as they were trained to do when attacked.

The officers called for an ambulance when Jones appeared to be in distress. He died within minutes of arriving at University Hospital, Assistant Chief Richard Janke said.

Black activist groups staged an economic boycott of Cincinnati after the 2001 shooting of Timothy Thomas, 19, who was wanted on prior charges of fleeing police when he ran from officers. Officer Stephen Roach shot him and was later cleared at trial of criminal charges.

A federal investigation of that shooting, requested by the city, resulted in Cincinnati's April 2002 agreement to tighten policies regarding use of force and to improve handling of citizen complaints against the police.

Last February, a white officer chased and fatally shot a black man who was spotted running from a store that had been broken into, police said. The police, Hamilton County prosecutor and the Citizen Complaint Authority review panel concluded that the shooting was justified because the suspect was beating the officer with his nightstick.

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