CINCINNATI – Misdemeanor charges filed against a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man brought outrage from the victim's mother but mostly peaceful protests in a city scarred by racial tension.
One month after the slaying that sparked the city's worst rioting in three decades, a grand jury indicted Officer Stephen Roach of negligent homicide and obstructing official business.
``I feel it was a slap on the wrist,'' said the victim's mother, Angela Leisure. ``I don't feel like justice was served. I feel it was not severe enough for the severity of what he did. He took a life. Negligence — that doesn't cut it for me.''
If convicted of both charges, Roach could face no more than nine months in jail or receive probation. The panel could have returned indictments ranging from murder to no charges at all.
``I was expecting exactly what we got — or less,'' said the Rev. Damon Lynch, one of the city's most prominent black leaders, who criticized the grand jury's decision.
Roach, 27, was charged with fatally shooting Timothy Thomas, 19, as he fled down an alley. The officer has said he thought Thomas was reaching for a gun.
Thomas was being sought for 14 outstanding warrants, most for traffic offenses. He was the fifth black man killed in confrontations with Cincinnati police since November and the 15th since 1995.
``No justice, no peace,'' chanted a crowd of about 150 protesters who marched peacefully outside the Cincinnati police headquarters for about an hour Monday.
Hours after the indictment was announced, a thunderstorm moved through the city and streets were quiet in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, the scene of the April 7 shooting.
Police said a few store windows were broken by demonstrators, but no arrests were made.
The racially mixed grand jury had heard from 20 witnesses, including Thomas' mother, investigators and witnesses to the shooting, county Prosecutor Michael Allen said.
``For those who say the charges are too light and for those who say they're too severe, my response is the same: Please withhold your judgment until you know all the facts,'' Allen said.
The shooting prompted the city's worst racial violence since the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn. Dozens were injured during three nights of rioting last month and more than 800 arrests were made before a citywide curfew helped restore order.
Fifteen blacks have died in confrontations with Cincinnati police in the past six years. Authorities said most of the suspects pointed guns or shot at officers.
Prosecutors announced the grand jury's decision after most downtown workers had gone home. The Cincinnati Reds, who play downtown in Cinergy Field, are out of town until Friday.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, both said they were disappointed. Jackson said: ``Killing an unarmed person is not a misdemeanor, and to say so is to cheapen the life of a black person.''
Earlier Monday, the Justice Department said it has formally opened a civil rights investigation of the Cincinnati police. An agency official speaking on condition of anonymity said authorities would look for patterns of illegal conduct, including the use of excessive force.
Blacks have long complained they are harassed by Cincinnati police and their neighborhoods are neglected economically. The American Civil Liberties Union and black activists sued the city in March, accusing the police department of failing to end 30 years of police harassment of blacks, who make up 43 percent of the 331,000 residents.
In the past month, the City Council has agreed to federal court-supervised mediation to resolve the lawsuit and the city's safety director and the city manager have resigned under criticism.
Mayor Charles Luken has also established a commission on race relations to explore problems that led to the rioting and what should be done to improve housing, employment and education for blacks who say they have been left out of Cincinnati's economic growth.
Roach, a police officer since 1997, had been on paid leave but the department announced that he would be returned to desk duty. Roach's lawyer, Merlyn Shiverdecker, said his client would plead innocent.
``Nobody's happy being indicted,'' Shiverdecker said of his client's reaction.
Friends said Thomas was leaving the apartment he shared with his fiancee and 3-month-old son to buy cigarettes when he was shot. At the site of the shooting, they have crafted a memorial with ``R-I-P Tim'' scrawled across a brick wall above a cluster of flowers and candles.