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Professor: Investigator Coached Roach
By Kimball Perry, Post staff reporter
September 21, 2001

A psychology professor criticized Cincinnati police for their interview methods and noted Police Officer Stephen Roach reacted naturally when he shot and killed Timothy Thomas.

Police Specialist Charles Beaver, who testified Wednesday that Roach lied to them about the April shooting, was pushing Roach to reach a specific conclusion at a time when Roach was vulnerable, said professor William Lewinski, called by the defense in Roach's trial on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and obstructing official business.

''Specialist Beaver had an agenda which he drove home throughout the interview . . . that it was an accidental discharge, that it was an accident,'' Lewinski testified Thursday in Roach's trial.

Beaver's agenda, Lewinski charged, led to him to conclude Roach was being deceptive. ''It was a diatribe, a lecture, an extensive coercive interrogation process.''

Wednesday, Beaver admitted on the stand he was coaching Roach, hoping to get him to admit to a lesser crime instead of remaining quiet and being charged with a more serious one.

Lewinski criticized Beaver for not letting Roach see the videotapes from police cruiser cameras that showed scenes of the shooting before questioning Roach a second time, in an April 10 interview, about the incident. Instead, Lewinski charged, Beaver set Roach up by asking questions and getting answers he believed would be contradicted by the videos.

After Roach saw the videos, he admitted he shot Thomas after the teen came around the corner of a building and startled him.

Prosecutors contend Beaver's tactics are good investigative techniques.

Roach shot Thomas, 19, on April 7 as officers trying to arrest the unarmed teen on misdemeanor warrants chased him through dark Over- the-Rhine streets. The shooting touched off three days of rioting.

Lewinski and another expert called by defense attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker testified Roach reacted exactly as he should have.

''What happened to Officer Roach is he made the most serious mistake, and he doesn't know why he did it,'' Lewinski said, noting it's natural that Roach should have memory lapses about the incident. ''Officers who shoot in those situations don't understand why they shoot,'' he said.

Another expert, forensic optometrist Paul Michel, said Roach's brain would have interpreted what his eyes saw - when Roach said he saw Thomas reach for the waistband of his baggy sweat pants - as a threat and his police training would have become instinctive. That Thomas was a threat ''was his reality at that moment,'' Michel said.

''He is functioning on the basis he has seen a gun. This is the way the brain is preprogramed.'' Shiverdecker expects to finish his case today. Closing arguments are set for Monday afternoon.


Police Investigator Grilled
Admits steering officer's account

By Kimball Perry, Cincinnati Post staff reporter
September 20, 2001

Cincinnati Police Detective Charles Beaver admitted during testimony Wednesday that he tried to steer the statement of Stephen Roach to keep the young officer from getting charged with a major crime after he shot an unarmed teen-ager April 7 in Over-the-Rhine.

''My purpose and reason was to prevent Officer Roach from stepping into something more serious,'' Beaver testified. ''I didn't want Officer Roach to get jammed up with a felony, a serious criminal offense or something like that . . . when the evidence pointed to an accidental discharge.''

Beaver was the police investigator who questioned Roach after he shot and killed Timothy Thomas, 19, as he fled police trying to arrest him on 14 misdemeanor warrants.

Beaver's dramatic testimony was the centerpiece for the prosecution's case against Roach, who is charged with negligent homicide and obstruction of official business. If convicted of both, he faces a maximum of nine months in jail.

Beaver noted how Roach gave them three different versions of how the shooting happened until finally, after being confronted with videotapes of the incidents and other evidence, admitted he accidentally shot Thomas when the teen startled him by coming around a corner of a dark alley near Republic Street.

His problem with Roach, Beaver added, wasn't necessarily that the 27-year-old officer violated some of his training - by pulling his gun before he entered the alley and placing his finger on the trigger instead of the trigger guard - but that he gave different versions of what happened. ''I would have pulled (a gun) myself,'' Beaver said.

Beaver spent much of the afternoon defending himself from questions by Roach's attorney, Merlyn Shiverdecker, who was trying to discredit Beaver's earlier testimony that he believed Roach was being ''untruthful to me'' about how the shooting took place.

Beaver's ''I can't remember'' reply to a Shiverdecker question caused the defense attorney to ask him snidely: ''You're not intentionally trying to deceive or hide something, are you?''

Beaver, who had asked Roach a similar question during his interview, responded with a smile.

Shiverdecker objected to several of Beaver's answers, telling Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Ted Winkler that Beaver wasn't clairvoyant and continued to give ''self-serving platitudes'' instead of answers.

Special Prosecutor Stephen McIntosh planned to rest his case today.

Shiverdecker planned to take most of the day for his expert witnesses - who will testify about how human eyes work in the dark and how the human mind operates in dangerous situations. The case could conclude by late Friday.

Winkler then will consider the evidence before rendering a verdict that is expected early next week.


Detective: Roach Lied About Shooting
By Kimball Perry, Cincinnati Post staff reporter

September 19, 2001

Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach lied to police investigators to cover himself after fatally shooting Timothy Thomas, an investigator said today.

''(Roach) realized he made a mistake and was trying to justify his actions,'' Cincinnati Police Detective Charles Beaver testified.

''(He was) being untruthful to me.''

Beaver said he and another homicide detective first interviewed Roach about five hours after the April 7 shooting.

In that statement, Roach provided a detailed description of Thomas being in a pitch-dark alley near Republic Street in Over-the-Rhine reaching deep into his sweatpants, pulling out a clenched fist, holding what Roach thought was a gun and making aggressive movements toward the officer.

Even at that interview, Beaver said he didn't believe Roach's version of the story.

''To me, it sent up a red flag,'' Beaver said, noting that most people interviewed after a shooting can't ''recall and describe in immense amount of detail'' all of the incident.

Police then reviewed videotapes taken from police cruisers at the scene that night, had them enhanced and slowed down and reviewed the videotape frame by frame.

Much of the videotape contradicted Roach's initial statement of those three seconds.

''There's just no feasible time frame or way that version, the version Officer Roach gave, (happened),'' Beaver said.

The tape shows:

Roach entering the alley with his gun already drawn; he earlier told investigators his gun was holstered until he saw Thomas reach into his pants.

Roach said Thomas took several aggressive steps toward him with his arm extended. That couldn't have happened, Beaver noted, based on how Thomas' body fell after the shooting.

Roach said he stopped to draw his gun on Thomas. The video shows Roach never stopped running even as a muzzle flash shot through the dark alley.

''It almost seemed to us, we discussed it, a very well-rehearsed statement,'' Beaver testified.

The investigators called Roach in for a second interview three days later ''to find out what really happened,'' Beaver said to- day.

Again, Roach essentially repeated his first statement - until Beaver showed him the videotape and said he didn't believe Roach.

''I'm worried about you jamming yourself up here,'' Beaver said in the taped statement of that interview with Roach. ''I don't want to doubt you, but it don't add up,'' Beaver said on a tape of the follow-up interview.

''I straight-up think it was an accident,'' he told Roach.

On the tape, Beaver even invoked the November death of Roger Owensby Jr., who died after police put him in a choke hold, the tape shows.

Had Officers Robert ''Blaine'' Jorg and Patrick Caton not invoked their Constitutional right against self-incrimination, they may not have been indicted on such serious charges, he said on the tape.

Jorg is charged with involuntary manslaughter - a felony - and assault. Caton faces a misdemeanor charge of assault in the Owensby killing. On the tape, Beaver suggested to Roach the shooting happened because he was startled and not trying to ''cover yourself with some kind of story.''.

Roach then asked for a break in the interview and privately talked to Fraternal Order of Police attorney Steve Lazarus, Beaver testified today.

After that, Roach talked again to police on audiotape and admitted the shooting was ''an accident.''

''I didn't intend to pull the trigger,'' Roach said after meeting with his attorney.

The accidental shooting, Roach said, happened because he was startled by Thomas quickly coming around the corner of the building.

''He jerked up and I jerked when he jerked. Unfortunately, my finger was on the trigger when I jerked,'' Roach said on the tape.

Beaver said in court that Roach making the final statement may have resulted in leniency.

''I figured they'd end up going with more serious charges,'' Beaver said.

Roach was indicted on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide for the fatal shooting and obstructing official business for giving different versions of the story. He faces a maximum sentence of nine months in prison if convicted.

Thomas' death touched off protests and rioting followed by a citywide curfew.


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