Police Showed Proper Restraint In
the Scuffle, Experts Believe
By Barry M. Horstman
Post staff reporter
December 2, 2003
To some civil rights groups, the death of Nathaniel Jones after he was
subdued by repeated blows from nightsticks is yet another example of
unchecked police brutality.
The 41-year-old, 350-pound black man from Northside was unarmed.
But independent experts on the use of force by police gave another view:
Jones attacked first, and the arresting officers seemed to exercise
proper restraint by using nightsticks rather than guns and by striking
at Jones' torso and limbs rather than at his head.
"There needs to be a thorough investigation of this case, but police do
have a right to defend themselves," said Stephen Richards, a criminal
justice professor at Northern Kentucky University.
Jones died early Sunday morning after his confrontation with police
outside a White Castle in Avondale. A manager at the restaurant had
called 911 for paramedics about 5:45 a.m., saying a man was passed out
on the grass outside. Once the paramedics arrived, they reported that
Jones was awake and "becoming a nuisance." They called police, who
arrived about 6 a.m.
From that point, video cameras in police cruisers caught most of the
encounter on tape. The tapes, released to the media on Monday, have been
posted on websites and broadcast on local and national television. In
them, Jones ignores orders to back off and instead charges an officer,
who is white, hurling insults and taking swings.
Falling to the ground, Jones continues to resist. Officers jab and club
him with their nightsticks, all the while telling him to put his hands
behind his back. Once Jones in subdued and cuffed, the officers stop
hitting him. Shortly afterward, with more officers arriving, concerns
about whether Jones is breathing or has a pulse are voiced.
Why Jones died is not yet known.
Preliminary autopsy results from the Hamilton County coroner's office
revealed that cocaine and phencyclidine -- PCP, often called "angel
dust" -- were found in his body. That perhaps explains the erratic
behavior that some of the first officers to respond to a call about a
disorderly man thought suggested mental illness.
Although the autopsy found bruises on Jones's right calf, right thigh,
right buttock and right flank, presumably from the blows from the
officers' nightsticks, the preliminary report said there was "no
evidence of transmission of force to internal organs.'' The coroner also
found that Jones, who was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed nearly 350
pounds, had an enlarged heart consistent with hypertensive heart
With the cause of death to be determined later and official
investigations just beginning, the final word on the death of Jones
while in police custody is weeks if not months away. But most every
expert consulted Monday said the videotape appears to record an arrest
by the book.
"What the public needs to understand is that once someone resists arrest
and reacts physically to police, the procedure is that police need to
take whatever steps are within reason to restrain that person," said
Frank Cullen, a University of Cincinnati professor of criminal justice.
"To do that is sometimes going to involve violence. When violence
starts, it's not going to be a very pleasing picture to the public."
Cullen said the community has little understanding of what constitutes
proper use of force by police.
"People might ask, 'Why keep hitting the guy? He doesn't have a gun? Do
you really need to hit him with those nightsticks?''' Cullen said.
"That's where there's a different view of things between the public and
police. The police are thinking, 'If we don't restrain this guy quickly,
he might grab our guns. The police view is that once force starts, it is
applied to the point where the suspect is restrained. For instance, when
police shoot, they don't shoot to wound. They shoot to stop the person.
They don't aim for an arm or a leg to wound the person. They aim for the
Even repeated baton strikes to a big man like Jones might not have much
of an effect, said Thomas Aveni, a member of the Police Policy
Studies Council and a New Hampshire police officer.
"I can't describe how ineffective batons usually are against large
people," Aveni said.
"I've struck guys half that size with batons and it literally had no
effect on them. Being hit with a baton tends to look worse on video than
it is in reality."
Michael Lyman, a criminal justice professor at Columbia College in
Columbia, Mo., said the standard for police force, as outlined in a U.S.
Supreme Court decision, is that it should be "objectively reasonable."
"It means there can't be punitive force," Lyman said.
"It has to be reasonable force. It has to be fair. In this case, the
huge size and behavior of this man would be factors in determining
'objectively reasonable' force. It seems appropriate that police would
use their sticks in this case."
James Frank, a UC criminal justice professor, agreed.
"When you think of some other options -- hitting him over the head or
using a gun -- it would seem the officers selected a technique that
normally would be non-lethal," Frank said.
Although those who defend or question the officers' actions may agree on
little else, they probably concur with Frank's observation that the
videotape likely will be interpreted differently by different people.
"People tend to see things that confirm their beliefs," Frank said.
Mayor Charlie Luken and others at City Hall came to the defense of the
arresting officers. Luken said Jones' sheer bulk made his lunging body a
"deadly weapon." But both in Cincinnati and across the country, calls
for investigations spread Monday.
Not satisfied with the three local investigations already planned -- one
by an independent citizen review panel and two within the Police
Department -- the local chapter of the NAACP announced it would conduct
its own probe into a death that chapter president Calvert Smith
described as "the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.''
In Chicago, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/Push Coalition called
for state and federal investigations.
"There seems to be a pattern of excessive force by the Cincinnati Police
Department, before and after the uprising of two years ago,'' Jackson
said in a statement. "Police officers have options available to
immobilize citizens short of death.''
And in Washington, U.S. Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez said
that officials are "in the process of gathering information and evidence
to determine if any federal action is warranted.''
Autopsy finds cocaine, PCP
• The Hamilton County Coroner's office
preliminary autopsy on Nathaniel Jones showed that cocaine
and the drug phencyclidine -- PCP, or "angel dust'' -- were
in his body.
• There were bruises on his right calf, right thigh, right
buttock and right flank, although no evidence of
transmission of force to internal organs from the blows by
• Jones' heart was markedly enlarged, consistent with
hypertensive heart disease.
Post staff reporter Stephenie Steitzer contributed to this story.
Jones Told Not to Resist 16
December 2, 2003
By Barry M. Horstman
Post staff reporter
Cincinnati police officers ordered Nathaniel Jones to stop resisting
arrest and place his hands behind his back at least 16 times before,
while and after they repeatedly struck him with their nightsticks in an
effort to subdue him, videotape of the fatal confrontation shows.
The videotape, from cameras in multiple police cruisers that responded
to the deadly encounter, is the critical piece of evidence in various
investigations into yet another controversy that threatens to unravel
the halting progress made in police-community relations in the 2½ years
since riots erupted on Cincinnati's streets, and that has once again
placed the city in an unflattering national and international spotlight.
Although the investigations center on whether police officers responded
properly or excessively when the 350-pound Jones lunged and swung at
them, the videotapes strongly suggest that the Cincinnati Fire
Department also will face tough questions -- in particular, why fire
paramedics who initially responded to a 911 call for medical aid left
after police arrived.
When police officers realized that Jones, by then handcuffed on the
ground, was not breathing, one glanced around, hoping to wave over the
fire paramedics, only to be surprised to see that the fire truck had
left, the videotape shows.
"Where'd they go?'' one police officer asked.
"Are those firemen helping him or are they going to bail?'' another
"They bailed. They were just here,'' the first officer responded.
A few seconds later, another officer said disgustedly: "They call us,
then they leave -- What a bunch of crap.''
Several minutes later, after police requested emergency medical
assistance, a fire truck returned to the scene and its paramedics began
treating Jones, who was pronounced dead shortly later at University
Hospital. It is unclear from the videotape whether that truck was the
same one that had left minutes earlier, or a different unit.
Chief Fred Prather, a spokesman for Fire Department, said Monday he is
uncertain why firefighters and paramedics left the scene. That will be
the subject of an internal investigation, he said.
On the issue of the delay in getting medical treatment for Jones, police
also will have some explaining to do based on their actions -- or, more
accurately, inaction -- on the videotape.
After detecting a pulse but noticing that Jones was not breathing after
officers rolled him over onto his back, a half dozen officers stood
around the 41-year-old Northside man for about two minutes without
administering CPR or other first aid.
"Sir? Sir? Sir?'' one officer standing over Jones said repeatedly,
trying unsuccessfully to get a response.
"C'mon, big 'un,'' another officer said.
The Fire Department's departure and the police officers' failure to
attempt resuscitation efforts before paramedics returned are among the
questions raised Monday by an American Civil Liberties Union advisory
panel to the landmark 2002 collaborative agreement that altered police
use of force policies and established new procedures governing how
allegations of police misconduct are investigated.
There will be at least four probes into Sunday's fatal incident, and
more could be announced later this week. The Citizen Complaint
Authority, the independent investigative body spawned by the 2002 pact,
the police department's homicide and the police internal affairs
sections will examine the case, and the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP
said Monday that it will conduct its own investigation. Other agencies,
including the U.S. Justice Department, are reviewing the case before
deciding whether to perhaps launch additional inquiries.
The debate at this early stage is breaking along familiar and
Police brass and some city officials defend the officers' actions as a
justified, by-the-book response to a dangerous situation primarily of
While urging Cincinnatians and others to reserve judgment pending the
investigations, Mayor Charlie Luken Monday offered at least preliminary
support for the officers.
"These officers were assaulted, the assault was violent and they
responded with the training they received," Luken said. "You could see
on the tape, if you watched it, the troubled looks on their faces."
Critics, though, counter that officers could have -- and should have --
found a way to defuse a hazardous, but less than life-threatening,
situation before it escalated into an episode from which one person
would never walk away.
"Somehow the city of Cincinnati must find the will to end this nonsense
of the death of African-American citizens in the process of and/or after
being arrested by the Cincinnati Police Department,'' Cincinnati NAACP
President Calvert Smith told a news conference.
The dramatic footage on the videotape gives both sides ammunition in
that contentious battle.
When officers arrived on the scene outside a White Castle in Avondale
shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday, responding to a call about a disruptive
man, Jones clearly was the aggressor, the videotapes released Monday
The intiial 911 call had sought aid for an unconscious man, but when
fire paramedics arrived, they found Jones both conscious and disruptive,
prompting dispatchers to request police assistance. Preliminary results
from an autopsy by the Hamilton County coroner's office showed that both
cocaine and PCP, or so-called "angel dust,'' were in Jones's system at
the time, perhaps accounting for the strange, aggressive behavior that
officers viewed as a possible sign of mental illness, leading them to
request backup from an officer specially trained in handling mentally
"Tell me what's going on,'' one officer said as he approached Jones.
"White boy, red neck,'' Jones shouted back.
"Back up! Back up!'' the officer said as Jones moved toward him.
An instant later, Jones lunged forward and threw a right fist at the
officer, touching off a melee in which officers James Pike and Baron
Osterman wrestled Jones to the ground and began attempting to handcuff
Throughout that violent scuffle, officers shouted at least 16 times:
"Put your hands behind your back.''
Because of Jones's heft, officers had considerable difficulty
handcuffing him. "This ain't going to work,'' one officer said. The task
was accomplished only after four additional officers arrived and helped
Jones can be heard moaning loudly during the struggle. "Ow, ow!'' he
bellowed at one point.
If those are the key moments on the videotape that police defenders will
point to, critics will focus on the extensive scenes showing officers
pummeling Jones with their nightsticks. Alternately wielding their
batons like a baseball bat or using them to violently prod Jones on his
torso, buttocks and legs, the officers struck Jones more than 30 times
in the portions of the struggle caught on the police cruisers' video
Coroner rules Cincinnati death a
Wednesday, December 3, 2003 Posted: 9:04 PM EST (0204 GMT)
Dr. Carl Parrott, coroner, gives his report on the death of Nathaniel
CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- The Hamilton County coroner Wednesday said the
violent struggle over the weekend between 350-pound Nathaniel Jones and
Cincinnati police officers was the immediate cause of the man's death
and said his death will be ruled a homicide.
Dr. Carl Parrott noted that Jones was obese, had an enlarged heart, and
had ingested PCP and cocaine hours before the incident with police.
Parrott said superficial bruises consistent with nightstick injuries
were on his body.
Parrott said Jones' death being ruled a homicide doesn't imply hostile
or malign behavior. The coroner's office said Tuesday that Jones had
bruises on his legs but no sign of injuries to his internal organs.
He said Jones' death "must be regarded as a direct and immediate
consequence, in part, of the struggle, plus his obesity, heart disease,
and drug intoxication." He said Jones had several lethal health problems
when the confrontation happened. The struggle caused cardiac dysrhythmia,
which was the ultimate physical cause of death, but he stressed the
event precipitating his death was the struggle.
He added, "Absent the struggle, however, Mr. Jones would not have died
at that precise moment of time."
New video released Tuesday showed Jones dancing and marching around the
White Castle restaurant and in the parking lot before officers arrived
on the scene.
Later, he fell down and rolled down a hill. Restaurant employees called
the fire department at 5:45 a.m. to report his bizarre behavior.
The tape also shows another view of the altercation with police, and
Jones is seen lunging at one officer, as he also is shown on the squad
Jones died at a hospital shortly after police beat him with metal
nightsticks to subdue him.
Police later found about a third of a gram of powdered cocaine and two
cigarettes dipped in PCP, or "angel dust," in Jones' car, the coroner's
office said Tuesday.
"Each of these drugs is a central nervous system stimulant and has been
associated in some cases with bizarre and violently aggressive
behavior," the statement said.
The case has stirred fears in metropolitan Cincinnati, where the killing
of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in 2001 sparked three
nights of rioting. Five of the officers involved in the altercation with
Jones were white and one was black.
Members of Jones' family Wednesday denounced the officers' actions and
said they could have restrained themselves. They called for an
African-American leaders are calling for a full investigation into the
incident, and have called on Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher
Jr. to resign.
The police, the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division
are gathering information on the incident.
Police have placed the six officers involved on administrative leave, as
is standard in cases where a suspect dies in police custody. The Citizen
Complaint Authority, created after the 2001 riots, also is looking into
Police chief defends officers
Tuesday, Chief Streicher said the police videotape of the incident
indicates the officers acted properly.
"Officers came under attack. At one point, they're defending themselves.
At another point, a transition is made to where they are trying to
arrest a person for a felony act of violence. ... Certainly, the
standard for use of force in the United States is that the officers can
use force to defend themselves and/or to overcome resistance to arrest,"
Streicher said. (CNN Access: Cincinnati police chief)
"These things take a tremendous toll on the officers," Streicher said,
noting the widespread media attention.
The video camera was rolling when police arrived at the scene, but there
was a brief gap in the tape.
Streicher said the camera automatically shuts off when the police
cruisers are parked. That's done to avoid the running down the car's
The camera can be turned on by a remote control on an officer's belt,
and that's what might have happened as the situation escalated.
"If so, I think it was a very wise decision on the part of the
officers," he said.
Police recount incident
Police gave this account of the altercation:
When paramedics arrived, they found Jones and a woman, who was in some
sort of medical distress. Jones then regained consciousness and began
At that point, following standard procedure, the fire officials called
A police videotape shows a squad car arriving at the restaurant at 5:58
a.m., at which point the recording device was switched off. (Account of
During the next few moments, which are not visible on tape, the two
officers from the squad car approached Jones in the parking lot of the
The tape resumes rolling at 6 a.m. An officer is heard saying to Jones,
"You got to tell me what's going on."
Jones then says, "White boy, redneck," and the tape shows him lunging at
the officer and attempting to put him in a headlock.
At that point, the two officers -- both of whom are white -- wrestle
Jones to the ground and use their metal nightsticks, appearing to strike
him around the shoulders and torso numerous times and yelling
repeatedly, "Put your hands behind your back!"
Soon after, four more officers arrive, and an apparent reference to
pepper spray is heard on the tape.
The view of Jones, who is being subdued on the pavement in front of the
squad car, is obscured from the camera, which is mounted on the
dashboard of the police car.
At this point, what sounds like "Help!" is heard coming repeatedly from
the pile of men. It becomes progressively fainter with each utterance.
A few minutes later, one officer asks for paramedics.
"He's got a pulse; he's just not breathing," the man says of Jones.
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