ST. BERNARD, Ohio — A parking lot brawl ended with a senior citizen facing criminal charges that St. Bernard Police hope to settle without traditional court.
Last Tuesday afternoon, cell phone cameras recorded a fight in the parking lot outside the Dollar Tree on Vine Street in St. Bernard.
"I asked her to please stop hitting my car with the cart," said Rose Hocker, who faces assault and criminal damaging charges.
Hocker claims the woman twice hit her car with a shopping cart. Witnesses told police the 28-year-old woman's child had the cart and rolled it near Hocker's car close without making contact. When Hocker confronted the woman, a fight started. Hocker claims the other women punched first then got help from three others. Witnesses told police it was a one-on-one fight. Several recorded cell phone video.
During the brawl, Hocker grabbed a chair out of her car's trunk and then used it to hit the other woman's car. That woman's child was in the back seat, police said. Hocker also used the chair to hit the other woman in the head. Video shows Hocker later spraying the woman with disinfectant.
"It was two or three of them (attacking me)," Hocker said. "It was the only thing that I seen that I can at least try to hit them with to get them off of me."
The blows Hocker absorbed in the fight scarred her face and neck. However, pending assault and criminal damaging charges hurt the certified nursing assistant more.
"I'm tore up about it," Hocker said. "I don't know if it will affect my job or not. Without that, I don't have a life. I don't have a life if I can't take care of people."
She was the only one charged because she escalated the fight by swinging a chair, police said. Officers hardly want her to spend time in jail or lose her job. The department recommended prosecutors move the case into Hamilton County Mental Health Court for its diversion program.
"There were indications from her family that she's under a lot of stress and there may be a mental health component, which we're looking into and have added onto the arrest report for the consideration by the prosecutor's office," Lt. Bill Ungruhe of the St. Bernard Police Department said. "Hopefully, she goes ahead and gets whatever treatment or results that she needs. She was cooperative with the investigation."
The arrest report said Hocker "may be a candidate for mental health court."
"Years ago we had no options," Ungruhe said.
Set up to help people facing misdemeanor charges with no prior violent offenses, Hamilton County's Mental Health Court offers treatment instead of jail sentences. Admissions to the Day Program run by Talbert House rose from 23 clients in 2019 to more than 30 in 2020 and 2021.
"I hope they just let (the case) go," Hocker said.
Increasingly, officers recommend eligible suspects for diversion programs in minor cases to spare resources and jail space for more serious crimes. At the same time, people like Hocker, who has no prior record, get a second chance without losing her freedom.
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