CINCINNATI -- An off-duty police officer fatally shot a suspected bank robber Wednesday, marking the third fatal officer-involved shooting in Cincinnati this year.
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, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot 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. They confronted Gaston a few blocks away on Harrison Avenue, just across the border in the adjacent city of Cheviot.
911 calls from the day of the shooting describe Gaston crashing his pickup truck into a pole at Harrison and Boudinot avenues in Westwood, stumbling out of the vehicle, dropping a gun on the street and picking it up before walking down the road. Callers reported that Gaston appeared intoxicated and was waving the gun in the air.
Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders said Gaston initially complied with the officers' orders. However, when he reached for a gun from his waistband, all three officers shot at him, Saunders said.
Witnesses captured cellphone video of the events, which Isaac played at a news conference.
"The officers responded appropriately according to their training," Isaac said. "Tragically, in this profession, these things happen."
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.
In that case, city leaders said the officers' use of force was justified.
Video depicts Tenbrink intermittently lowering one of his hands at a time, seemingly toward his chest or waist. Officers are then heard repeatedly commanding Tenbrink to keep his hands up. After roughly a minute, Tenbrink is seen turning around pointing the BB gun at officers. That's when Harmon and Manz opened fire. Tenbrink went down after three quick shots.
Isaac said the officer-involved shooting at Fifth Third Bank on Madison Road Wednesday was "in defense of (the officer) and the bank employees."
Isaac said the suspect entered the bank demanding money and said he had a gun. The off-duty officer shot at the suspect multiple times, but the suspect was able to escape and fled to nearby woods. Officers found him dead several minutes later, the chief said.
It is still unclear if the unnamed suspect had a gun, Isaac said.