Arrest close for third Avondale shooting suspect

Chief James Craig predicts end of week arrest

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig said Tuesday he believes the third suspect in last week's police-involved fatal shooting in Avondale will be in custody by the end of the week.

"I'm always excited when we take bad folks off the street that really create fear in our communities," he told
reporters during his monthly media briefing.

The incident happened during a traffic stop for a possible drug arrest at Reading Road and Burton Avenue last Wednesday evening.

During the stop, Chief Craig said Dontez O'Neal, 19, fired a shot at Officer Orlando Smith and the officer shot back, striking O'Neal four times. O'Neal died of his wounds.

Robert "Bobbie" Matthews, a passenger in the car, was also wounded. Police said he had a .380 caliber revolver with him.

A $5,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of a third unidentified suspect. Chief Craig said that's produced numerous tips.

"We're talking about a group that I believe that based on the actions that night had one mission -- they wanted to get away and if it meant shooting a cop, that's exactly what they were going to do," he said.

Questions have been raised about why the shooting wasn't captured by the camera mounted in Officer Smith's car.  The chief said it malfunctioned for an unknown reason.

"We know that it wasn't an intentional effort on the part of the officer to shut the camera off because we have ways of checking back and making that determination," he said. "That did not happen. So what we have is a malfunction."

Had the camera been operating, Chief Craig added it wouldn't have recorded critical data.

"The positions of the vehicles -- where the officers were situated at the time of the shooting -- he would not have been in view of the camera," he said.  "So, it wouldn't have added anything to this case."

Chief Craig covered a number of other topics:

  • It was a tough decision to cut the Mounted Patrol, but the savings will mean 50 more officers on the streets.

 

  • A plan to redraw boundaries of the police districts could be introduced during the first quarter of 2013. That may include a new district covering the University of Cincinnati Clifton campus and the Uptown area.

 

  • Some shared services are possible with new Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil, but patrolling the streets of Cincinnati will be left to the city police.

 

  • Part I crime is down nine percent this year compared to 2011. Violent crime is down 7 percent, more than the goal of 5 percent. The number of homicides is 23 percent lower than a year ago.


The Chief said he met Monday with UC President Santa Ono to discuss cooperative ways to keep the campus and city safe.

He said the discussion included the possibility of starting a Students On Patrol effort, similar to the Citizens On Patrol, and restricting access to campus to prevent property theft and other crimes.

That, he said, could be accomplished by having officers positioned at strategic points around the entries to university property.

Sgt. Ron Hale will launch a pilot fitness program next week to try and improve the overall health and safety of officers. If successful, the voluntary effort will be launched department-wide next year.

Chief Craig supports the effort, saying officers need stamina, strength and flexibility to adequate perform their daily job.

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