Easter calm in Cincinnati
CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- After a third night of calm imposed by a heavy police force and a dusk-to-dawn curfew, the mayor of Cincinnati pushed back the citywide curfew to 11 p.m. Sunday to allow people to spend time with their families on the Easter holiday.
Meanwhile, the FBI and police were investigating the bean-bag pellet gun shooting by police of a young woman as she left the funeral of a man whose death sparked the unrest.
Except for convoys of police cars that patrolled the streets, Cincinnati looked like a ghost town overnight. The curfew was imposed Thursday after several days of rioting that followed the shooting death by a white police officer of Timothy Thomas , a 19-year-old unarmed African-American.
Though more than 100 people were arrested for curfew violations Saturday night, that was about half the number arrested the night before.
An Easter morning downpour heartened officials, who expressed hope it would dissuade protesters from returning to the streets. "We want to return to normalcy by Tuesday," Police Chief Thomas Streicher told CNN.
War of words
But the mood was combative between Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman.
Squaring off on "Fox News Sunday," Mfume criticized police for firing bean bags at Christine Jones, 34, of Louisville, Kentucky, as she left Thomas' funeral. Mfume said the bean bags left two bruises on Jones' back.
"There was absolutely no reason for it," he said, adding, "There is something woefully wrong with this Police Department. Even police officers say that."
Jones was treated at a hospital and released in good condition.
"Well, let me first state that I don't fault Mr. Mfume for being uninformed and not knowing his facts," responded Fangman, who said he had no first-hand knowledge of the event.
"I was there when your officers opened fire after the funeral," Mfume shot back. "So, I'm not ill-informed."
The two men then began talking at the same time. Fangman asked, "Will you act like a gentleman and please be quiet?"
"I am a gentleman," Mfume said.
Fangman, who is white, then mispronounced the black leader's name, saying he "came to Cincinnati as an outsider and repeatedly stated that 15 African-American males had been murdered at the hands of Cincinnati police officers. Period, end of quote. No facts associated with that statement."
Fangman said seven independent investigations looked into the deaths and found that 12 involved suspects armed with deadly weapons.
"Mr. Mfume," Fangman said, again mispronouncing the name, "do you actually believe that all officers should not have the right to use deadly force in a deadly force encounter?"
"Mr. Fangman, you know that's not the case," Mfume answered. "And my name is pronounced Mfume, with all due respect."
He then challenged Fangman's characterization of the outcome of the investigations. After the investigations, the city of Cincinnati fired 10 of the police officers involved in shooting young black males, but a "twisted arbitration panel" reinstated them, Mfume said.
The NAACP leader continued, "Do you believe that when an unarmed suspect is running from police, has no weapon, makes no deadly moves, should be shot down in a dark alley like a dog, like a pig, like an animal? And then you come away saying that the police officer acted right. You don't even allow for the investigation to go forward; you said the police officer was justified."
Not so, Fangman said. "Once again, sir, your facts are absolutely incorrect." Fangman said he had not said the officer who shot Thomas was not guilty. "There is an investigation," he said.
Fangman once again mispronounced Mfume's name, then said, "I have difficulty pronouncing his name."
"That's because you want to have difficulty," Mfume said.
Then, addressing the 10 officers referenced by Mfume, Fangman acknowledged that they had been reinstated but said Mfume was wrong. "His statement that no officers have been fired in the past five years is wrong," Fangman said.
"I didn't say that," Mfume countered.
Asked if the police have a problem they need to work on, Fangman said, "I think that you can always improve police-community relations, and certainly you can improve police relations with the black community. But you don't do it with the constant criticizing."
Saturday's funeral for Thomas, whose death a week ago while fleeing police sparked several days of violent protests, was peaceful. During the service, Cincinnati Mayor Charles Luken apologized for Thomas' death and said he hoped the tragedy would help forge a "new Cincinnati."
Thomas had been sought for 14 misdemeanor warrants: three for driving with an expired license, four for seat-belt violations, five for driving without a driver's license and two for obstruction of official business.
The officer who shot him, Steve Roach , a 12-year veteran of the force, was put on administrative leave.
Four Cincinnati police officers have been killed in the line of duty since 1995.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who cut short a trip to Africa to fly to Cincinnati, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the federal government must take a leadership role in improving relationships between city police departments and blacks, and that President Bush must get involved.
"He has a crisis in his country," said the Baptist minister, a leading critic of New York City police's violent confrontations with blacks. "It's time for a national response and real change, not just telling us to quiet down."
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