- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

A county coroner yesterday ruled that a combination of drugs and an irregular heartbeat triggered by a fight with Cincinnati police officers caused the death of Nathaniel Jones Sunday.

Hamilton County Coroner Carl Parrott classified the death as a homicide, but clarified his ruling by saying that “homicide is a medical term … murder is a judicial finding.”

“My concern [with the homicide ruling] is that it is likely to be interpreted as malign intent on the part of police,” Dr. Parrott said. “We have no way of knowing and we aren’t in a position to get inside people’s heads.”

Mr. Jones, 41, suffered from an enlarged heart, obesity and had intoxicating levels of cocaine, PCP (phenylcyclohexylpiperidine) and methanol in his blood, Dr. Parrott said at an afternoon press conference. The death certificate will list a cause of death as an irregular heartbeat because of a stress reaction from the confrontation with police officers.

Dr. Parrott added that blows from the officers’ nightsticks, seen worldwide as part of a police video camera that captured the incident, “were hurtful but not necessarily harmful.”

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, who weighs between 350 and 400 pounds, and an altercation ensued. Mr. Jones died at a hospital.

Six officers, five white and one black, ranging in experience from nine months to 23 years, have been placed on routine administrative leave as the incident is reviewed. Mr. Jones has a criminal record that includes a conviction for possession of cocaine.

The family of Mr. Jones has retained local lawyer Ken Lawson, who was feted last year by the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for his legal work on Cincinnati’s police-reform settlement.

Mr. Lawson also represented Angela Leisure, the mother of Timothy Thomas, 19, who was shot while fleeing a city police officer in April, 2001. The incident sparked three days of rioting.

He was also part of a team of lawyers who filed a racial-profiling lawsuit against Cincinnati calling for changes in how the police division operates and uses deadly force.

The city settled with the plaintiffs, agreeing to several changes in procedures and oversight. The agreement called for police to institute nonaggressive measures to help prevent repeats of several cases in which black men died in custody or while being arrested.

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