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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unedited reports reveal details of Turner incident

August 10, 2011
By Scott Winfield, The News Record

University of Cincinnati Police Division reports indicate two separate assaults taking place prior to the death of Everette Howard Jr. near Turner Hall Saturday.

One day after UCPD released a heavily redacted report – which left out basic public information including names and ages – concerning Saturday's events, a full, unedited report was released as public record Wednesday.

The withholding of information was to prevent interference with investigations on the incident conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI), which is assuming full investigatory control of the incident, said Mitchell McCrate of the General Council in an email to The News Record and other Cincinnati media.

"All are now in agreement that the information requested is subject to release," McCrate said. "If the university has proceeded cautiously in the release of information the sole reason is to ensure that it does not in any way affect the ability of BCI to conduct this investigation."

McCrate stressed that UCPD is not trying to withhold information from the public.

"Ironically, this caution may have subjected us to the charge that we are concealing information, but nothing could be further from the truth," McCrate said. "At the end of the day our interest in the independence and integrity of the investigation is our overriding concern."

UCPD received a 9-1-1 call shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday from a resident adviser in Turner Hall concerning an assault in room 141, the reports said.

UCPD Officer Rick Haas arrived on scene to find Officer Brian McKeel questioning parties involved outside, according to Haas' report. Haas entered the building and began questioning people in room 141.

According to Haas' report, roommates Nemuel Bonner, 18, and Everette Howard Jr. had friends visiting. A third roommate, Desean Cook, 18, also had visitors not known to Bonner or Howard.

When Cook's friends began to leave, one tried to take a hat that belonged to Bonner, prompting Bonner to demand it back.

The unidentified man refused and struck Bonner with his shoulder. His friends attacked Bonner, at which point Howard and Bonner's friend intervened, according to reports. Shortly after the fight, Cook's party left the room.

Haas tried to question Howard after the incident occurred, but Howard was reportedly unable to speak coherently.

As the aggressors were unavailable for questioning, the matter was dropped.

An hour later, McKeel received a call describing a second fight on Jefferson Avenue behind Turner Hall.

According to McKeel's report, he was first to arrive on the scene followed by Haas and Lt. Elliott. As McKeel arrived, a large group of individuals scattered in all directions.

Haas and Elliott pursued a group heading southbound on Jefferson Avenue, while McKeel stayed to question those in the immediate vicinity.

The second assault was initiated when Cook's friends found a member of Bonner's group, Demonte Mingo, 18, waiting on the corner of Jefferson and University avenues for a ride from his brother, Tyrone Scruggs, 22, according to McKeel's report.

Once Scruggs arrived, the group began attacking Scruggs, prompting Bonner, Howard and others to retaliate once more.

During questioning, McKeel heard a transmission from Haas asking Elliott for assistance after Haas used his model X26 Taser on Howard who was with the first group heading southbound, according to McKeel's report. It is not clear why Howard was Tasered.

At 3:17 a.m., the Cincinnati Fire Department was contacted for assistance with Howard after he was shocked by Haas' Taser, according to reports.

Howard was later pronounced dead at University Hospital.

A statement and account by Haas of the Taser incident was not filed, according to UCPD, and it is unclear where and how Haas used his Taser to subdue Howard.

No charges have been filed against the parties involved, who appear to be members of UC's Upward Bound Program – a pre-college program administered by the U.S. Department of Education and UC designed to motivate and provide academic skills for eligible students interested in education beyond high school – and it is unclear who initiated some of the attacks.

All investigations into this matter will now be handled by the BCI.

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