Attorney for Lachey's shooting suspect: 'Police were in a rush to hold somebody accountable'

Says case is just like Kelsie Crow, Rico Mosley

CINCINNATI -- Clyde Bennett said he knew, from the first report he heard on the news, that the Thanksgiving morning shooting outside Lachey's bar would garner a lot of attention.

"With what happened in Over-the-Rhine, you would have thought it was a presidential assassination," Bennett said.

Early at about 3:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving, 27-year-old bar manager Ellie Richardson was shot in the face outside Lachey's bar, according to police. Richardson is home from the hospital and said in a Facebook post that she has "one more surgery to go" but "a long road ahead" to a full recovery.

On Thursday, a grand jury indicted 36-year-old Lavoris Hightower in the shooting. Hightower retained Bennett as his attorney and surrendered to police soon after he was indicted.

"When this case flashed across my television, I knew there was gonna be a rush and a lot of pressure to hold somebody accountable," Bennett said. "So I wasn't surprised when they indicted (Hightower)."

Bennett said police got the wrong guy.

"I think there was an attempt by the Cincinnati Police Department to hold somebody accountable so that everybody could still feel comfortable eating, drinking and having a good time in Over-the-Rhine," Bennett said. "That’s not the law though."

Bennett was quick to clarify that the shooting was "tragic" and that Richardson is "a fine young woman."

"I don't want to devalue that woman, because what happened is unfortunate," he said. "I feel sorry for that woman. But I'm talking about the efforts of law enforcement."

Bennett said he anticipated investigators would work in a rush to bring Richardson's shooter to justice. He said law enforcement would be "under pressure." He said the situation "has nothing to do with race, but it has everything to do with the fact that it happened in Over-the-Rhine."

"They want to make sure that someone is responsible for it so that everyone can feel comfortable in Over-the-Rhine again," Bennett said. "A lot of money has been dumped in Over-the-Rhine."

Prosecutor Joe Deters' statements about the indictment did acknowledge that the area where Richardson was shot has undergone a transformation in recent years -- and a shooting could undo it.

"Cincinnati has worked very hard to improve the area where the shooting occurred," Deters said. "This type of heartless act has the potential of ruining years of progress. He needs to go to jail for a very long time."

Bennett also represented Rico Mosley, the man accused of shooting 17-year-old Kelsie Crow outside a Sweet Sixteen party in 2015. He said the two cases are very similar: Police were under pressure to find someone responsible for a tragic shooting, but they picked the wrong suspect, he said.

"I said the exact same words about a year ago," Bennett said. 

Mosley was taken to trial in late August and found not guilty.

As he said about Mosley, Bennett says there is no evidence tying Hightower to the shooting.

"Let me succinctly say this: He did not do it. I don't have to prove that he didn't do this," Bennett said. "Where is the presumption of innocence? Until or unless I see evidence that he committed this crime, I believe him when he told me that he did not do it."

Bennett questioned the amount of coverage the case has already received in local news. On the same night that Richardson was shot, another woman was shot and killed outside a bar in Roselawn. Dina Mosley, 48, was killed outside Nephew's Bar at around 10:30 p.m., police said.

"What about the other four or five people who have been murdered since then? I haven’t heard anything about them," Bennett said. "What about all of the people who were killed in Bond Hill and Avondale in the past month?"

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