The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 45           December 22, 2003  
Black man dies after blows by Cincinnati cops
CINCINNATI, Ohio—The death of Nathaniel Jones following a November 30 beating by cops, who struck him repeatedly with their nightsticks, has sparked controversy and protest here. Some 500 people attended a memorial event on December 6, reflecting the anger at Jones’s death among working people who are Black. One hundred took part in a protest rally the next day.

The beating administered by the cops was partially captured by their own video camera. According to, the videotape shows “the first two officers to arrive, Baron Osterman and James Pike…striking Jones after he ignored orders to stay back. The videotape showed the 350-pound Jones taking a swing at an officer and putting his arm around an officer’s neck.”

By the same account, the two cops “knocked Jones to the ground and fell on him. Jones was struck with nightsticks at least a dozen times as the officers yelled, ‘Put your hands behind your back!’” Eventually six cops were on the scene.

The 41-year-old Black man died later at University Hospital. On December 3 Hamilton County coroner Carl Parrott ruled his death a homicide, adding that the decision “should not be interpreted as implying inappropriate behavior or the use of excessive force by police.” Parrott said that Jones was overweight and had taken cocaine and PCP hours before his death, on top of methanol already in his system.

“They talk about Skip [Jones] like he was an animal,” said Nathaniel Jones’s grandmother, Bessie Jones. “He wasn’t. Skipper was just a good old, fat jolly fella. He wasn’t violent.”

On December 5 cops from across the city gathered at the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) headquarters to show support for the policemen involved. “Nathaniel Jones chose to ingest crack cocaine,” said FOP president Roger Webster. “He chose to ingest PCP. He chose to ingest embalming fluid. He chose to attack the cops.”

The Jones family’s lawyer, Ken Lawson, said that the FOP’s stance “underlines why the community is upset. They don’t care about human life.”

Voices of protest were raised as news of Jones’s death was circulated, along with shots from the videotape. His family said they would seek an independent inquiry. Both the National Urban League and NAACP called for a federal civil rights investigation.

“We are concerned about what seemed like excessive force,” said Rev. Calvin Harper, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Greater Cincinnati and Vicinity, on December 2. “We also are concerned that there seems to be a rush to exonerate the police and an attempt to assassinate the character of Nathaniel Jones before all of the facts are in.” He urged attendance at a rally on December 7 to show “unity and concern.”

Two days before the planned action, however, the Baptist Ministers Conference announced that they were calling off the rally.

“The organizers reached that decision after hearing the family talk about their hurt and their desire that everyone love one another,” said Rev. Gregory Chandler, “and that there be no uprising or violence in the city.” In April 2001 working people mobilized in several days of protests following the fatal police shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas—the 15th Black person killed by the city’s police from 1995 to that point. The cops fired rubber bullets, metal-filled beanbags, and tear gas at the protesters, and arrested 66.

Around 100 people attended a protest organized by the New Black Panther Party on the day of the cancelled rally. “I am here because I am sick and tired of the killing and beating of Black men,” said Michael Riley, 55.

“I don’t feel any legislation is going to give justice,” said Julie Frances, 25, a student at North Kentucky University. “It has to be people coming out opposing racist killings.”  
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