Man shot, killed in attack on Cincinnati police officer was once a promising former foster kid

Jawari Porter graduated, had scholarship to UC
Posted at 4:23 PM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 10:08:40-04

CINCINNATI -- A man shot and killed by a Cincinnati police officer Sunday seemed to be at a very different place in his life six years ago.

Jawari Porter was in his first year at the University of Cincinnati in the fall of 2010. Entering college isn't unusual for a lot of kids, but Porter had been a foster kid in the care of Hamilton County. Foster kids face far more challenges in making it to college, and even then, fewer than 10 percent get a degree.

Porter had graduated from Taft High School and gotten a scholarship to UC through the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative, a program that helps foster kids with college. His tuition, room, board and meal plan were covered.

Another student in the program, Mariah Maxwell, wrote that she and Porter were lucky to have scholarships and mentors through the program:

"Jawari, a Taft High School alum, is now an exploratory student interested in working in some aspect of the media. He currently has a full workload, juggling 16 credit hours while fulfilling his work-study requirements of about 10 hours a week with (the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative)," she wrote.


Little more than a year later, Porter's fortunes had started to change. He was arrested in Cincinnati Police District Four for public indecency and disorderly conduct. According to court records, "Mr. Porter was completely nude" in a Kroger store. Cincinnati police also charged him with obstructing official business, saying he'd tried to run from them.

A Hamilton County judge found Porter incompetent to stand trial and dismissed the charges. 

He was found to be mentally ill, according to probate court records. In late December, a magistrate granted a motion for forced medication treatment.

Records show he was in and out of mental health treatment in the following years, both inpatient and outpatient facilities.

About four years later, in July 2015, District Three police arrested Porter on two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of resisting arrest. They accused him of attacking two people, punching one of them in the face. His court records list his address as a building in Elmwood Place belonging to the Hamilton County Community Mental Health Board.

By September, a judge had found him incompetent for trial, dismissed the charges and referred him to Summit Behavioral Healthcare Center for 60 days of treatment.

His case continued for several more months in the probate system. It was eventually being dismissed by late June 2016.

Porter seemed to have been homeless at times. Josh Spring, executive director of the Homeless Coalition, said Porter had used a mailing address his organization set up for people experiencing homelessness. A week before his death, Porter signed up to begin selling issues of Streetvibes, a local alternative newspaper that often focuses on topics such as poverty and homelessness. 

"I believe that he was working on getting to a better place, which would be housing," Spring said.

Porter's final run-in with the law came Sunday morning. Police said he robbed a Kroger store in Over-the-Rhine and attacked Officer Anthony Brucato at Government Square with a knife. Brucato shot and killed Porter in self-defense, Police Chief Eliot Isaac said.

"This was a vicious, violent attack on the officer," Isaac said at a news conference Monday.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Monday afternoon that he found Brucato was justified in shooting Porter. He said he doesn't plan to present the case to a grand jury.

Spring, in a joint statement with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, faulted police -- as well as a lack of adequate mental health resources -- for Porter's death.

"We contend the police-orchestrated escalation led to an avoidable killing," the statement said.

Jawari's death is a complex incident, and it's one that many groups will turn over and examine carefully before determining where it belongs in our nationwide discussion of fatal police shootings.

Kevin Morris may have been the last person to whom Porter spoke. Morris said he had seen Jawari panhandling Downtown and, just a few minutes before his death, encountered him outside a corner store in Government Square.

"I walked in the store, got me a coffee, and the little homie was outside the store asking for cigarettes, straight up," he said. 

Morris gave him one. Moments later, Porter was dead.

"It's sad as hell, man," Morris said. "I'm probably the last person he said some words to." 

The full story on Sunday's shooting can be read here.