41-year-old Nathaniel Jones is dead, and people are blaming the police of Cincinnati, Ohio. But unlike an earlier death in that city, Jones’ death did not lead to widespread rioting and looting. Nathaniel Jones’ death made the news because he was caught on police video, lunging and swinging at the cops. The police retaliated with nightsticks as Jones continued to resist. The coroner for Hamilton County, Carl Parrott, said that Jones died from a combination of factors including an enlarged heart, obesity, and “intoxicating levels” of cocaine, PCP and methanol in his blood.
Did the cops single out Jones to kill him? No. Jones attacked the cops. But this latest death has not improved the Cincinnatians’ opinions of their police force. In 2001, Cincinnati erupted in riots and looting after the death of another man at the hands of police. Timothy Thomas was the fifteenth man since 1995 to die in Cincinnati at the hands of the cops.
Let’s examine each of these 15 deaths, working our way backward, and see if we can spot some common threads in each of these deaths.
Thomas was only 19 on April 7, 2001, but he was wanted by the police for over a dozen misdemeanor warrants. When he realized the police had spotted him, he took off. Eventually twelve officers were involved in chasing Thomas. Officer Steve Roach testified that he saw Thomas appear from behind a building, and that he further saw Thomas reaching for something in his waistband. Fearing for his safety, Officer Roach fired once, killing Thomas. In this case, Thomas did not directly threaten the cops, but he did resist arrest as he fled. Thomas’ death sparked the worst riots and looting in the U.S. since 1968, when the Avondale riots occurred in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Wanted on three felony warrants, Adam Wheeler was not too interested in letting the police enter his home to investigate a drug complaint on January 31, 2001. He slammed the door in the cops’ face and shouted, “You want a war? You got a war.” He emptied his gun at the police and was shot and killed during the fight. He died while resisting arrest and attacking police officers.
On November 8, 2000, Jeffrey Irons entered a supermarket, and the employees claimed he stole some deodorant and shaving cream. When the police were called and Irons was confronted, he refused to surrender and struggled with the cops. He snatched one officer’s gun and shot Officer Tim Pappas in the hand. Officer Frederick Gilmer then shot and killed Irons. Irons died while resisting arrest and attacking police officers.
Roger Owensby Jr.
Wanted for outstanding warrants, Roger Owensby Jr. initically cooperated with the police officers as they tried to arrest him on November 7, 2000. But once he saw the handcuffs, he panicked and ran. He was quickly brought down with pepper spray, handcuffed, and placed in a police cruiser. Later he was found unconscious and died shortly of suffocation. He died after resisting arrest.
Courtney Mathis was only 12 years old on September 1, 2000, but he stole a relative’s car and drove it to a convenience store. Officer Kevin Crayon, noticing Mathis, asked to see his driver’s license. Mathis started to drive away, and Officer Crayon reached into the car to stop him. The officer became tangled in the steering wheel and was dragged by Mathis for 800 feet until Officer Crayon drew his gun and shot Mathis point-blank in the chest. The force of the shot dislodged the officer from the car, and he struck another vehicle and was killed. Mathis managed to make it home, where he died four hours later. Both Officer Crayon and Courtney Mathis died because the boy resisted arrest.
Alfred Pope was a known criminal with five convictions and 18 felony charges. Pope died on March 14, 2000 after he and another man robbed and pistol-whipped three people in an apartment building. The police chased Pope until he pulled out a 9mm handgun and threatened the officers. Of the 26 bullets subsequently fired by the police, 10 struck and killed Pope. He died after resisting arrest and threatening the police.
Officer Craig Ball responded to a domestic violence call early in the morning of October 16, 1999. As Officer Ball opened the door to the apartment stairway, he came face to face with Carey Tompkins who shoved a 9mm handgun in the officer’s waist. Tompkins was shot in the ensuing struggle for the gun. He died while resisting arrest and threatening the police.
On August 20, 1999, James King robbed the Fifth Third Bank at gunpoint. No one was hurt during the robbery, and King made off with a bag of cash. King led the police in a car chase until he trapped himself in a dead end. King exited his car, gun in hand, and was ordered by the police to drop his gun. He refused and was shot and killed. He died while resisting arrest and threatening the police.
In the early morning hours of March 19, 1999, Officers Brent McCurley and Michael Miller ran a check of the license plates of the car Michael Carpenter was driving. The car belonged to a friend, and the registration had expired. When confronted by the officers, Carpenter refused to leave the car and reached for the glove box. Officer Miller tried to pull Carpenter out through the driver’s side window, and was dragged about 15 feet until the car hit a parked van. When Officer McCurley saw Carpenter attempt to back up his car, he fired nine times. Carpenter died while resisting arrest and threatening the police.
On the morning of July 17, 1998, Randy Black robbed the Cinco Credit Union at gunpoint. The police gave chase. Black threw a brick at one officer and lunged at Officer Joseph Eichhorn with a two-by-four board studded with rusty nails. Black was shot twice and died. He died while resisting arrest and threatening the police.
After an eight-minute car chase, Jermaine Lowe crashed his fleeing car into another on June 3, 1998. Lowe reached out the driver’s window and emptied his handgun at the three pursuing officers, who returned fire and killed Lowe. Lowe’s passenger was unharmed and was not charged with a crime. Jermaine Lowe died while resisting arrest and attacking the police.
On February 2, 1998, Daniel Williams flagged down Officer Kathleen Conway’s car. He struck her in the face and shot her four times in the legs and abdomen before pushing her aside and seizing the steering wheel. Officer Conway responded by shooting Williams twice in the head. Williams died while attacking the police.
Lorenze Collins had a history of mental illness, and on February 23, 1997, he found himself surrounded by 15 officers armed with guns. Collins threatened them with a brick he was carrying and refused to drop it. He was shot and died five days later. Collins died resisting arrest and threatening the police.
Darryll C. Price
On April 4, 1996, the police found Darryll C. Price jumping on the hood of a car and shouting that he was going to “shoot someone.” The police sprayed him with a chemical irritant, tackled and shackled him. Because of the cocaine he had previously used, Price suffered from “agitated delirium with restraint,” a syndrome that begins when a disturbed person cannot get enough oxygen. Price died because he resisted arrest.
Harvey Price killed his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter, Tesha Beasley, with an axe and kept police at bay for four hours on February 1, 1995. He advanced on officers with a raised knife and was shot by the SWAT team. He died while resisting arrest and attacking officers.
Of the 16 people on this list who were killed by the Cincinnati police, 15 were resisting arrest, and 12 were attacking or threatening the officers. Does this sound like cops out of control to you? Does it sound like the police had itchy trigger fingers and were cruising around just looking for an excuse to plug someone? When I look at the individual cases, I have to answer “no” to both questions.
The death of Timothy Thomas and the subsequent riots in 2001 did have a result. To reduce the community’s anger, the police reduced their presence in the area. In the next two months, 73 people were murdered — a 700% increase over the previous year. The people’s demand for the police to back off led directly to more deaths. So which is worse, 16 people dead over the course of 9 years, or 73 deaths in two months? You can do the math.
Let me finish with a quick lesson that everyone reading this article should learn: if you wish to live through an encounter with police, do not attack them and do not resist arrest.
It really is that simple.