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Cincinnati Officer Breaks Silence

September 29, 2001

CINCINNATI (AP) _ A white police officer acquitted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man said the outcome of his trial was just, but that the shooting was a ``nightmare for everybody.″

The shooting touched off the worst rioting in the city since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.

``I still can’t believe all that has happened in the city in the last six months because of something that took just seconds to occur in that alley,″ Stephen Roach, 27, told The Cincinnati Enquirer in an interview published Saturday. He was speaking publicly for the first time since the shooting.

Roach said little about the shooting itself because he is being sued for wrongful death by the victim’s mother. Roach’s defense attorney said during the trial that the officer’s fear made him involuntarily fire his weapon.

Roach was found innocent Wednesday of misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and obstructing official business.

He shot Timothy Thomas, 19, on April 7, after chasing him into a dark alley. Thomas was wanted on 14 misdemeanor warrants.

The shooting touched off three nights of rioting in which dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested.

``What went on in that alley was a nightmare for everybody,″ Roach said.

Roach said after the shooting, he and his wife were afraid to leave their home. But he said the public has been supportive and he has received many anonymous donations to his legal defense fund.

Roach has not returned to his beat. For now, his job is inspecting cars and entering data into a computer at the city impound lot.

``Some have said, ``Oh, you’re Officer Roach,‴ he said. ``And they may have had bad thoughts about me. But they’ve never said anything.″

Roach said he’s not quite ready to return to the street.

``I still have problems dealing with this thing,″ Roach said. ``It’s going to take time. It wouldn’t be right to come back, for me, for the Cincinnati police, for the city.″

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