CINCINNATI – The FBI is investigating possible hate crimes involving attacks by blacks on whites during riots last month in Cincinnati, county and city officials said.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen and City Councilwoman Minette Cooper said Thursday that FBI officials told them the investigation focuses on white motorists who claim they were attacked because of their skin color.
"I think that if we have laws like this, they have to be used equally," Cooper said. "Everybody is entitled to protection."
FBI spokesman Ed Boldt confirmed Thursday that agents have opened an investigation into three attacks, but he would not discuss the race of the suspects or the victims.
The attacks occurred during rioting that followed the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.
Officer Stephen Roach has pleaded innocent to two misdemeanor charges in the fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas. Roach shot Thomas, 19, after pursuing him into a dark alley on April 7.
Police said Thomas was wanted on traffic charges and prior charges of fleeing from police. Roach told his union that he fired a shot because he felt threatened.
During the rioting that followed Thomas' death, some white motorists complained that rocks and bottles were thrown at their cars and some said they were pulled from their cars and beaten.
Allen said his office will cooperate with the FBI and could file assault charges of its own if the investigation leads to the attackers.
The FBI already is gathering evidence for a civil rights investigation into Thomas' death. It also is investigating police officers accused of firing non-lethal weapons on a peaceful crowd following Thomas' funeral April 14.