Black Leadership Rejects Grand Jury's Decision

In the church where Timothy Thomas was eulogized, dozens of people gathered Monday night to reject a grand jury's decision and demand a better explanation for his shooting death.

A Hamilton County grand jury indicted the police officer who shot Thomas on two misdemeanors Monday, disappointing community leaders who had hoped for murder charges.

Officer Stephen Roach faces up to nine months if convicted and could get probation for killing Thomas as he fled arrest a month ago.

"It was business as usual," said Alvin Baker, 57, who came to the Baptist church in the poor Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. "I'm not even angry. You get tired of being angry."

The grand jury chose the least-serious charges to indict Roach -- negligent homicide and obstructing official business.

Roach shot Thomas on April 7 as he ran down a dark alley, fleeing arrest on 14 misdemeanors. The shooting of the unarmed black man sparked three days of rioting in Over-the-Rhine and other predominantly black neighborhoods.

Thomas' mother called the grand jury's decision "a slap on the wrist" and said it was difficult for her to call for a peaceful response.

"I don't want anyone else to be in the same situation as me and the other families that's lost black men in this city," Angela Leisure said. "But I can't sit here and say my whole heart is for peace right now. That's not how I feel.

"I'm not going to lie to the public, and I'm not going to lie to myself. That is not how I feel. My feelings are borderline rage."

A group of about 150 protesters later marched from the church to police headquarters in Over-the-Rhine, where officers in riot gear and on horseback watched from a distance. The group circled the headquarters peacefully.

A thunderstorm moved through the area as the indictments were announced, keeping residents off the streets.

"I do feel the rain is the answer to my prayer because I do not believe in violence," said Jackie Amos, 53, who kept dry inside the church.

Shortly after the indictments were announced, about 50 people came to the church to plot a response. Some walked out when the Rev. Damon Lynch, pastor of the New Prospect Baptist Church, called for nonviolent protest.

Lynch wasn't surprised that the racially mixed grand jury settled on misdemeanor charges. He criticized county Prosecutor Michael Allen, who declined to go into detail about testimony the grand jury heard.

"He kept talking about the fact that he couldn't release certain details," Lynch said. "If ever there was a time for details, I think it's now."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was surprised by the grand jury's decision in view of the attention that Cincinnati has received.

"I am deeply disappointed with this decision," Jackson said, in a telephone interview from his office in Chicago. "Killing an unarmed person is not a misdemeanor, and to say so is to cheapen the life of a black person."