- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

The Cincinnati police video of officers fighting with a suspect who later died is being edited by some television stations in a way that suggests the officers used excessive force, an official with the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office said yesterday.

“What is happening around the country for headline purposes is the Rodney King technique,” said Jon Esther, a spokesman for Hamilton County prosecutor Mike Allen. “It is showing the arrest part of the tape out of sequence. I am not saying this is done maliciously, but it is being seen out of context.”

The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office is one of several law enforcement agencies and civilian groups reviewing the death of Nathaniel Jones, 41, who was struck several times with nightsticks in a confrontation captured by police cruiser video camera Sunday morning outside a White Castle restaurant.

Mr. Esther said a purported gap in the videotape that has been questioned by community activists is the camera switching off automatically when the police car’s emergency lights were turned off. The camera was switched back on via a remote “when conditions deteriorated.”

Mr. Esther said he had watched the eight-minute tape repeatedly.

The unedited video shows Mr. Jones, who is black, tussling with two white officers and calling them “redneck” and “white boy,” Mr. Esther said. Four other officers also responded to the scene.

Several black leaders in the city are questioning the officers’ use of force. Cincinnati was rocked by three days of riots in April 2001 after the shooting of a black man who was fleeing from police.

At least one witness said Mr. Jones was struck unprovoked, said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, a local minister who has led protests against the city’s police for years.

“What mitigates this is that the police came out and try to justify this,” he said, noting city leaders’ support for the six officers involved in the struggle.

The county coroner’s office has not established the cause of Mr. Jones’ death but said the presence of cocaine and PCP, an enlarged heart and his 350-pound frame might have been contributors.

Around 6 a.m. Sunday, an employee at the fast-food restaurant called 911 to report a man, Mr. Jones, acting erratically on the lawn. Police arrived and confronted Mr. Jones, and an altercation ensued.

Mr. Jones died at a hospital shortly after being taken into custody Sunday night.

The six police officers involved are on routine administrative leave as the incident is reviewed.

The local office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is calling for the 1,054-officer department to review its use of force policy, adding that it will embark on its own investigation of Mr. Jones’ death. The Rev. Jesse Jackson also issued a statement calling for an investigation.

Also investigating the incident are a civilian watchdog panel, the police department’s own internal affairs department and the Department of Justice, which has been monitoring the department as part of an agreement struck between protesters and the city after the 2001 riots.

The national office of the Fraternal Order of Police yesterday cautioned the Justice Department to measure its response.

“We hope that the Department of Justice will not be seduced by unsupported allegations,” the police union said in a statement. “They must be mindful of the potential for the department’s actions, taken in haste, and under the beckoning lights of the media, to worsen the fallout from this incident.”

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