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Protesters loot, set fires in Cincinnati

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Police block a street in Cincinnati on Tuesday where people roamed the area breaking windows in a protest over the police shooting of an unarmed black man  

CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- Protesters, angered by the fatal weekend police shooting of an unarmed black man, set fire late Tuesday to a market in a historic area of Cincinnati and looted buildings, police said.

The vandalism and violence intensified at nightfall following earlier protests in which officers in riot gear fired bean bags, rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators.

"We have arsons going on, we have vandalism, windows being broken," said Cincinnati Police Lt. Ray Ruberg.

He said the demonstrators had broken into smaller groups at night, and that several Dumpster fires were burning in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood bordering downtown Cincinnati.

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The violence seen and heard on the street

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Ruberg said more than 65 people had been injured in the violent demonstrations since the afternoon. Twenty-five people were taken to hospitals and at least 40 people were treated at the scene. There were reports of several people pulled out of their cars and beaten by small mobs.

At least 20 young people have been arrested since Monday for rioting and disorderly conduct, Ruberg said.

Tensions were running high in the city after the death Saturday morning of Timothy Thomas, 19, who was shot by a single bullet fleeing police who were pursuing him over warrants for a variety of minor misdemeanor charges such as not wearing a seat belt.

Thomas was the fifth black killed by police since September.

"There's a great deal of frustration within the community, which is understandable. We've had way too many deaths in our community at the hands of Cincinnati police," said Mayor Charlie Luken, who canceled Wednesday's regularly scheduled City Council meeting, fearing more violence.

Fresh rioting began at dusk Tuesday, when arsonists set fire to the Findlay Market, an open-air market in a historic area of Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood where Thomas was shot, authorities said.

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Timothy Thomas was fatally shot Saturday, April 7, as he ran from a police officer trying to arrest him on 14 warrants  

The earlier afternoon protests involved about 150 demonstrators -- young people, both black and white -- who marched through city streets, shoving over newspaper vending machines and breaking storefront and office building windows, said Gina Ruffin Moore, communications director for City Manager John Shirey.

Tuesday's demonstrators never made it to City Hall, where police ringed the building with shields. Moore said the building was on lock-down, with no one allowed in.

Police fired 40 to 50 rounds of bean bag bullets as well as tear gas, she said, but no one was injured.

Similar protests erupted Monday afternoon after a public safety committee meeting at City Hall, said NAACP Cincinnati Chapter President Norma Hope Davis, who was there to meet with city officials concerning Thomas' death.

Demonstrators broke 28 windows in the City Hall building overnight Monday.

"We're trying to help express community outrage and make sure this doesn't happen again," Davis said.

Ruberg said police had put in place civil disturbance procedures before the Tuesday night riots had broken out, and more police officers were on the streets.

"We're hoping that community leaders come forth and talk to individuals, to try to convince them that civil disobedience, disorder and damage is not the way to get your message across," Ruberg said.

Meanwhile, the mayor said he would try to help Thomas' mother obtain a copy of a statement by the officer who shot her son. The officer, Steve Roach, who is white, was placed on administrative leave.

"I think she' s entitled to see what his statement is," Luken said.

Davis said Thomas was wanted on 14 misdemeanor warrants, charging him with failure to wear a seat belt and other minor traffic counts. Police chased Thomas down an alley, where he was shot once by Roach.

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Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach  

Thomas is the fifth black male since September to die while being pursued or taken into custody by Cincinnati police officers. The FBI opened a preliminary civil rights investigation in Thomas' case Tuesday after talking with the chief of police, said FBI spokesman Ed Boldt.

Ruberg could not comment on reports that Thomas appeared to be reaching for a gun, saying that aspect of the case was under investigation. He said a police video relating to the incident had been subpoenaed by county prosecutors, but he did not know what was on the tape.

Civil rights investigations are pending on two other cases, including one in which a suspect being arrested last November struggled with officers and died of asphyxiation. State prosecutors have indicted two officers in that case, Boldt said.

Community leaders, local ministers, members of the NAACP and elected officials planned to meet Tuesday night to discuss the situation. A prayer vigil will also be held in Over-the-Rhine.



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