Cincinnati, Ohio sees fourth officer-involved fatal shooting this year

Incident occured in downtown Cincinnati
Posted at 8:26 AM, Aug 08, 2016

The City of Cincinnati has had its fourth fatal shooting involving a police officer this year.

One of those involved an off-duty officer working a private security detail.

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the investigation of the incident is still in its "very early stages." 

On Sunday, Aug. 8, a police officer shot and killed a man matching the description of an aggravated robbery suspect. Isaac said preliminary information indicates the suspect was armed with a knife and struggled with the officer.

The incident occurred in the downtown area where many locals get on and off metro buses.

"We have recovered a knife here at the scene," Isaac said.

The officer was not injured.

How it began
Police got a call at 7:21 a.m. Eastern about a robbery at the Kroger store in an area called Over-the-Rhine, which is close to the city's downtown. The Associated Press reported that the suspect held a knife to a security guard's throat.

Isaac said an officer from Cincinnati Police District One found a person matching the robbery suspect's description on Fifth Street, at Government Square. The Associated Press reported he pulled a knife on two officers.

During a struggle, Isaac said, the officer fired multiple times. Investigators are reasonably certain the suspect was the same person involved in the Kroger robbery, Isaac said.

Video from a witness shows what appears to be the suspect covered with a sheet.

The investigation
The dead suspect has not been identified; staff from the Hamilton County Coroner's Office said he is a black man in his 20s, but he was not carrying any identification.

"We're photographing everything from when we’re approaching, to the position to the body, to any casings or shells or anything we can see around the scene," Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said.

Multiple officers responded to Government Square, but only one seems to have fired, Isaac said. Homicide Unit detectives are interviewing that officer, as well as witnesses, Isaac said; they're also obtaining video footage from the area.

Isaac said the department will refer the case to the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, as is standard procedure.

The Cincinnati Police Department's policy is to place any officer involved in a shooting on administrative leave for seven days. A full media briefing will take place within the next day, Isaac said.

"I think it's important that we put out the information as timely as possible. And we want to be factual in that information. We want to make sure that we're certain of what occurred, and we're in the process of gathering that information," Isaac said.

Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Cincinnati, sought to address community concerns about the shooting, saying no officer ever wants to initially harm or kill someone.

Pastor Peterson Mingo urged people "don't rush to judgment, wait until all the facts are in.

"I can understand the frustration of the people. It frustrates me also," Mingo said as a group of onlookers gathered. "But what we have to do is maintain our minds and our sense of reason. We don't need 300 people running through the streets rioting."

Government Square, Downtown Cincinnati's major transit hub, was closed as police investigated; it reopened by 1 p.m. Sunday.

Other officer-involved shootings this year

There have been three other fatal shootings involving Cincinnati police officers in 2016.

On Jan. 11, officers Andrea Harmon and Kevin Manz shot an armed robbery suspect, Robert Tenbrink, in West Price Hill when he failed to comply with their commands and pointed an object, later determined to be a BB gun, at the officers, police said.

On Feb. 17, three officers fired nine rounds into Paul Gaston, 37, after he ignored commands to lie flat on the ground and instead raised up, appearing to retrieve a firearm from his waistband, Isaac said. The gun was an Airsoft pistol, which he called "a very realistic-looking firearm." The three officers who fired shots were Eric Kohler, Scott McManis and Zachary Sterling.

On May 25, an off-duty officer shot and killed Terry Frost III, 20, during an attempted robbery at the Fifth Third Bank in Madisonville, police said. Frost entered the bank wearing a mask and hood, as well as a plastic grocery bag over his hand, Isaac said. Frost vaulted over the counter, and Officer Kevin Hankerson, who was working a security detail for the bank, drew his gun. Frost pointed his covered hand at Hankerson, who pushed a teller out of the way and fired twice as Frost leaped back over the counter and ran out the door, Isaac said.