Commentary

Something I Said: Nathaniel Jones homicide puts Cincinnati on alert

Nathaniel Jones homicide puts Cincinnati on alert
Nathaniel Jones died on Nov. 1 in a brawl with Cincinnati police under clearly unwarranted circumstance. The entire ordeal was revealed on nationally broadcast footage. Nathaniel Jones died on Nov. 1 in a brawl with Cincinnati police under clearly unwarranted circumstance. The entire ordeal was revealed on nationally broadcast footage.

Jones may have earned a beat-down. The 350-pound house of a man lunged at and grabbed one cop in a serious yoke. Accordingly, it is hard to fault fellow officers for coming to the cop’s aid and doing whatever it took to get Jones subdued. However, that is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is what happened after Jones was incapacitated. While Jones was on his stomach with his hands secured behind him, a cop forcefully and repeatedly stabbed him in the gut with a baton.

Jones had passed out in a restaurant parking lot and, according to police information, had an enlarged heart and traces of cocaine and angel dust in his blood. And, yes, he — arguably under said influence — violently aggressed. This exonerates the cops how?

Hamilton County Coroner Carl Parrott ruled the death a homicide, but added that such a decision does not mean police used excessive force. He said he had to rule the death a homicide because it did not fall under the other categories: accident, suicide or natural. Parrott said that the death was a homicide because the struggle and restraint caused Jones’ death, but rationalized that Jones would have been more likely to survive had he not used drugs, been obese or suffered from a weakened heart. Well, no matter how enlarged his heart was, or over what period of time he had ingested drugs, he was alive before Cincinnati cops got their hands on him. And while he was subdued they continued to assault him in what anyone with eyes in his or her head can tell you was an incontrovertible exhibition of wanton excessive force.

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said Monday that the videotape showed that the nightstick-wielding officers were defending themselves. Rejecting activists’ demand that he force Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. to resign, Luken said, "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. While the investigations will continue, there is nothing on those tapes to suggest that the police did anything wrong." Conspicuously, he does not acknowledge that the tape also showed that there was a point at which they were no longer defending themselves; the point at which at least one of them, plainly and simply, viciously attacked the then defenseless Jones.
Nathaniel Livingston Jr. of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati issued a much more credible statement, asking, "How many of our people have to die before the city decides to do something about it?" This in light of, among other incidents, the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man by an officer in April 2001, which set off three nights of rioting. You have to empathize with community activists in Cincinnati who decry Jones’ death as yet another example of brutality by Cincinnati police. As Calvert Smith, Cincinnati chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stated, "If proper procedure means that you can use that kind of force to clobber people repeatedly who are clearly disarmed, then there’s something wrong with the policy."

I submit that there is something wrong with not only policy, but the very mentality by which Cincinnati police — whose actions strongly resemble those of cops in New York City, Los Angeles and, yes, Minneapolis — believe their badges entitle them to brutalize and, on a regular basis, kill people of color without any sort of accountability or consequence for blatant abuse of authority.

This nation inexorably is headed for a showdown the likes of which have not been seen since large, urban cities were torn asunder, literally coast to coast, in the 1960s with blood freely flowing in the streets. One

December 9, 2003
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