Coroner: Struggle Caused Man's Death

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, December 3, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The debate continued today in Cincinnati over the amount of force used by police to subdue a 350-pound black man who later died.

Earlier today the coroner said Nathaniel Jones' (search) death was due to an irregular heartbeat brought on by a stress reaction from the violent physical struggle. But this new video, taken just before Cincinnati police subdued the suspect, could shed some light on the controversy.

Joining us now from Cincinnati, radio talk show host, he's with the big one, 700 WLW, Bill Cunningham is with us. And Kenneth Lawson is the attorney for the Jones family.

Bill, I see this new video here, and the way I interpret it, as had previously been reported, he's acting bizarre.

BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, you know, Sean, I know a little bit about the family because I spoke to a friend of his that graduated from Woodward High School.

This is a good, roly-poly Santa Claus type who was, this particular day was simply jacked up on drugs. He had cocaine, PCP. He was taking mortician fluid into his body. And this fellow went from roly-poly happy fellow to a raging lunatic on a dime and viciously and violently attacked a peace officer wearing a gun and a tie.

And as my good friend ken Lawson maybe will not admit to, this fellow died because he had too many White Castle Sliders, too much PCP, too much drugs, too much moonwalking at White Castles, a la Michael Jackson (search).

And I take issue with the coroner. I don't know about my friend Kenny, but this was an accidental death. This was not a homicide, in my opinion.

HANNITY: I would actually agree with you.

But Kenny, let me go to you.

We're looking at your client here. First of all, he has an enlarged heart, hypertensive condition, coronary disease, obviously. He's a man that's on PCP, cocaine and other substances found in his blood. He attacks a police officer.

What is your defense of this? Look at him. Look at him slamming that cop.


HANNITY: What is your defense?

LAWSON: Look, the fact that somebody may be intoxicated by way of alcohol or drugs does not mean that you have now a full right that can be unchecked to kill him.

I mean, the bottom line is this, was the force excessive or not? Once they start beating the man -- and I'm not saying officers don't have a right to defend themselves. If a person charged me and did what you see here, I would defend myself.

But at some point, these officers should have stopped beating the hell out of this young man...

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Mr. Lawson, it's Alan Colmes. Look, isn't it significant that the coroner said -- they ruled it a homicide, and they said that, although it wasn't the only cause, that what happened here could have been part of what led to his death? Isn't that significant?

LAWSON: It's not significant, because the coroner, who was a medical doctor, is not saying that, that part to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. He is speculating on that.

Let me say this. The coroner admits that he had an enlarged heart and suffered from high blood pressure and was taking medication for that condition.

It is just as likely that, once they get this man down and kneel on his back to try to subdue him, that the lack of oxygen could have generated the cardiac arrest, even had he not had...

COLMES: That's my point. I'm agreeing with you. I'm saying that the coroner is saying that that could be a significant factor.

I want to show another piece of tape here. And we're going to listen to what he is -- he's down on the ground. We're going to show a little piece of tape here. And you will hear him moaning and groaning while he's already on the ground. You can hear him responding there. And you can't see what's happening, he's lower than where the videotape ends.

So we don't know, Bill Cunningham, what these officers are doing to this guy, and we can hear the response from Jones. You can hear him groaning and moaning, based on the activity of these officers.

CUNNINGHAM: Alan, from the get-go Nathaniel Jones was completely in charge of what happened to him. Nathaniel Jones was responsible for weighing 200 pounds overweight.


CUNNINGHAM: Too many purchase Big Boys, too many Krispy Kreme doughnuts, too many Sliders from White Castle.

COLMES: Not true.

CUNNINGHAM: The police officers are not responsible for a morbidly obese individual who was hyped up on drugs.

COLMES: I'm going to show you another piece of tape here. This is part of the video. He's already down on the ground. You see the police; they continue to go at him. And if you look at this videotape, they keep hitting him with the stick. He's on the ground.

You can't even see the lower half of this picture, of what's going on. That's where the videotape ends on the bottom. But they keep going after him. He is clearly, by that point, subdued and down, and they don't stop. They keep whacking him.

At what point should they stop?

CUNNINGHAM: He's not subdued -- Alan, he's not subdued until...

COLMES: Look at him. Look at the videotape. Why can't they stop?

CUNNINGHAM: I say they keep letting him have it until he's subdued.

COLMES: He was subdued.

CUNNINGHAM: He was not subdued, Alan. He was not subdued.

COLMES: And you can't even see what they're doing. You can hear him moaning and groaning again.

CUNNINGHAM: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

HANNITY: Bill, let me tell you something. I'm looking at this. There's no -- excuse me. There's no handcuffs on this man. Not one handcuff on him. And he's resisting arrest.


LAWSON: You can't see what he's doing to say that.

HANNITY: You can tell by the cops' actions that he's not -- that he doesn't have the handcuffs on. At one point he tried to stand up, and they tried to put his arm around him, and he wouldn't allow it.

LAWSON: Just because they didn't have the handcuffs on him at that point, they have no right to keep hitting him.

HANNITY: He didn't have the handcuffs on him.

LAWSON: They've got him face down on the ground.

CUNNINGHAM: Because he's kicking, and he's flailing around and these officers want to go home to their families.

LAWSON: He is not kicking and flailing around. How...

HANNITY: He is so. Look at the reaction of the officers.

LAWSON: Listen, they are doing more activity with their hands by striking him than anything else.

HANNITY: Mr. Lawson, this is about money now, isn't it? This has become -- You're going to sue the city for millions, aren't you?

CUNNINGHAM: He's a multimillionaire.

LAWSON: Can they give me his life back?

CUNNINGHAM: He's a multimillionaire because of this.

LAWSON: Well, you're damn right I'm going to sue them for money. Can they give him his life back? Can they give him his life back?

CUNNINGHAM: If we keep incentivizing them, you're going to be a millionaire.

LAWSON: Can they give him his life back?

COLMES: We've got to go.

CUNNINGHAM: No I'm sorry he's dead, but you're a billionaire.

COLMES: We're just out of time. We thank you both.

LAWSON: Had that man been mentally disabled...

COLMES: We thank you both very much. Anyway, we will continue to follow this story and continue to show you pieces of that videotape. That is all we have left for tonight.

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