At crime meeting, chief on defense over shooting

Posted at 12:50 AM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 03:55:35-05

CINCINNATI -- At the city's fifth meeting on violent crime, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac came to his department's defense over a recent officer-involved shooting death of a suspect.

The meeting was part of a series Isaac, Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black have been holding around Cincinnati. They're a place for city leaders to listen to neighbors' concerns and ideas as the Cincinnati Police Department works to curb gun violence in 2016.

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Some speakers applauded the CPD's efforts on community relations and crime reduction; many also said they look forward to a new police substation opening in the College Hill neighborhood.

Kamiah Twitty, a student at Western Hills High School, brought up concerns about mental health and teen suicide.

"At West High, I honestly only know of one counselor in the entire high school," she said. "That shouldn't be."

"I absolutely believe that mental health is one of the next civil rights movements that we need to fund and expand funding for and treatment for as we move forward," Cranley said.

But a large portion of Monday night's meeting, held at the College Hill Community Center, focused on last week's police shooting death of Paul Gaston. Isaac said three officers fired nine rounds into Gaston 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."

When people at Monday night's meeting raised concerns, Isaac defended the officers' actions as "consistent with their training." And, he said, he's highly aware of the need for positive relations between police officers and the community they serve.

"The reason that I am a police officer today is because of the experiences that I had with officers as a young man," Isaac said. "So when we have these incidents, I take them to heart. They mean something to me."

On Sunday, the hacker group “Anonymous” posted a YouTube video showing a masked man at a podium with a digitized voice who threatened to release the personal information of Cincinnati police officers involved in Gaston's shooting.

The group compared his death with an incident in Mount Healthy from a day earlier where a white man, Christopher Laugle, was arrested after police said he pointed a toy gun at officers. The voice in the video compared Gaston's case to other black men carrying toy weapons who have been shot by police in Ohio, including John Crawford and Tamir Rice. The voice suggests there is a double standard based on race.

Officers said Laugle's weapon had bright orange markings on the barrel, making it an obvious fake, unlike Gaston's airsoft gun.

The president of Cincinnati's Fraternal Order of Police called Anonymous a "fringe group" that was looking to rile up officers with its threat.

Last month, Cincinnati police officers shot and killed Robert Tenbrink, a white man, after he pointed an object at them; it was later determined to be a BB gun.