Cincinnati mayor pledges to 'embrace justice'
Funeral held for black man slain by white police officer
CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- Cincinnati Mayor Charles Luken and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft were among the mourners Saturday at the funeral of an African-American man whose death at the hands of a Cincinnati police officer sparked a week of seething racial tensions.
"God bless all of you," Luken said. "Pray for peace. Pray for justice."
With two nights of curfew-imposed quiet behind them, Cincinnati police stayed out of sight as hundreds of mourners filed past Timothy Thomas ' casket inside the New Prospect Baptist Church, a short distance from the alley where he died, and hundreds more gathered outside the church.
Luken, who imposed the curfew, stepped up to the church podium and addressed Thomas' family.
"Words cannot express my sorrow," he said. "I repeat today my apology to you and your family and hope I can today be a catalyst for a new Cincinnati -- a new Cincinnati that seriously embraces justice."
"An end to racism ... is a long way from reality here," Luken said. "(But I give you) my pledge that our city will be better one day."
The 19-year-old Thomas, who was unarmed, was shot to death last Saturday while fleeing a white police officer.
Saturday a 'crucial day'
Police Chief Thomas Streicher said on Friday that Saturday would be a "crucial day" and that the funeral itself could be "a turning point" for the troubled riverside city.
Several minor skirmishes were reported between police and demonstrators outside the church immediately following the funeral.
In one instance, a group of marchers tried to march past a police station and encountered a police gauntlet.
Many of the police officers had their weapons -- including shotguns -- drawn, some pointed at the protesters. After a brief negotiation, the march was allowed to continue and end at the spot where Thomas was killed.
City and state police said they planned to remain in the background for the funeral out of respect for Thomas' family.
"The actions of the police division today will be to assist the church for the funeral. We anticipate that a fairly large crowd will be outside the church and the general area," said Streicher at a Saturday briefing. "We're trying to approach everything with common sense."
Police made 218 arrests overnight Friday and Saturday -- 212 for curfew violations. The arrests were nearly identical to the 216 -- 153 for violations of the curfew -- made on the restrictions' first night.
"Overall ... we're extremely encouraged by the cooperation of the citizens in this city and believe that the operations were a success overnight," Streicher said.
Luken imposed the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew when angry, violent protests over Thomas' death -- and the wider issue of race relations in the city -- showed no signs of abating.
Police union denies racism charges
Thomas was the fifth African-American man to die at the hands of police since September, and the 15th since 1995. Officer Stephen Roach, the man who shot him, has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Roach was trying to serve outstanding warrants on Thomas when the 19-year-old fled down an alley. The officer shot him once in the chest.
Thomas had 14 outstanding warrants -- three for driving with an expired license, four for seat belt violations, five for driving without a driver's license and two for obstruction of official business.
City officials acknowledged that Cincinnati has a troubled record on race relations, but a police union spokesman emphatically denied that law enforcement officers fueled racial tensions.
"Our police officers are not some band of rogue Nazis roaming Cincinnati, hunting down and killing black men," said Officer Keith Fangman, Fraternal Order of Police president. "That is inflammatory, it's racist and it's wrong -- absolutely wrong."
But, Fangman told AP, the circumstances of Thomas' death warranted close scrutiny and disciplinary action if the officer involved is found to have been at fault.
"From what we've been told, the suspect was not armed," Fangman said. "So it's natural that there should be questions. The community has every right to get answers to those questions."
According to a spokeswoman for the city manager's office, the police force is 70.3 percent white and 28.4 percent black. The city's population -- 331,285 according to the latest census figures -- is 43 percent African-American.
Three police officers killed since 1997
According to a police document, seven of the 15 men killed since 1995 were armed with guns, one threatened officers with a brick, one waved a board with nails in it at officers and one had a knife.
A police union spokesman said two people, including a 12-year-old boy, used their cars as weapons against police. Three -- including Thomas -- were unarmed.
Both black and white officers were involved in the shooting deaths. Police were exonerated in nine of the shooting cases.
In the shooting of the 12-year-old, a police officer was killed when the car driven by the suspect dragged him. The officer was able to shoot the boy before he was killed.
In another case, an officer was disciplined with a written reprimand and had to undergo 40 hours of training.
Investigations are pending in the other four cases, including the Thomas shooting.
Additionally, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft sent representatives from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to Cincinnati on Friday to "conduct a review of the practices, procedures and training" of the city's police force in the wake of the recent police killing.
Three Cincinnati police officers have been killed in the line of duty since 1997.
CNN Correspondent Bob Franken contributed to this report.
Cincinnati under curfew on eve of funeral for man slain by police
Cincinnati Police Division
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