- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

CINCINNATI (AP) — A white police officer was not following proper procedures when he fatally shot a fleeing, unarmed black man, a killing that led to riots this past spring, a prosecutor said yesterday during a non-jury trial.
The officer was the only one of at least five officers pursuing Mr. Thomas, who took his revolver out of his holster, prosecutor Michael Prisley told the judge.
Before firing, Officer Stephen Roach, 27, should have used other methods to stop a suspect wanted on traffic violations and charges of fleeing police, Mr. Prisley said.
He also should not have put his finger on the trigger before he intended to use the gun, Mr. Prisley said.
Officer Roach was indicted in May on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and obstruction of official business in the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, 19. If convicted of both charges, he could face up to nine months in jail.
The death ignited the city's worst racial violence since the Martin Luther King assassination in 1968, and prompted a citywide dusk-to-dawn curfew to restore order. Dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested.
Defense attorney Merlin Shiverdecker said that in all of Mr. Roach's accounts of what happened, he repeated his assertion that Mr. Thomas made a move to his waistband.
"He perceived that move to the waist and feared it as a threat to his safety," Mr. Shiverdecker told the judge.
Mr. Roach agreed to have the trial heard without a jury. After hearing testimony, Municipal Court Judge Ralph E. Winkler may take the case under review and issue his verdict later.
The obstruction charge stems from the differing accounts of what happened that Mr. Roach gave detectives investigating the shooting, Mr. Prisley said.
Three officers involved in chasing Mr. Thomas testified for the prosecution they did not take out their guns.
When Officer Thaddeus Steele was asked how often suspects flee police in the area, he replied, "Every night."
Mr. Shiverdecker said defense witnesses, including police supervisors, would testify that Officer Roach is a mature, dedicated officer. Other testimony would be about the poor lighting in the alley where the shooting took place.
Mr. Thomas was the 15th black male to be fatally shot by Cincinnati police since 1995.
Police union officials have said 10 of those men fired or pointed guns at police officers, and two drove at or dragged officers from cars.
The shooting led the mayor to request a federal investigation.

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