Police video shows US officers fatally beating black man

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The Independent US

An investigation has been launched in Cincinnati after a police video revealed officers beating a black man with steel clubs. The 25-stone man died shortly afterwards in hospital.

Six officers attempted to arrest Nathaniel Jones after a disturbance at a fast-food restaurant in the city known for racial tensions. The video camera, fitted in a police vehicle, showed Mr Jones, 41, being repeatedly struck by officers using their night-sticks.

Yesterday, activists said Mr Jones' death was another example of police brutality and racism in Cincinnati. The fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in April 2001 prompted three nights of rioting in the Ohio city. Nathaniel Livingston of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, said: "How many of our people have to die before the city decides to do something about it?" But Charlie Luken, the city's mayor, resisted demands to ask the police chief to resign. He said: "What I saw was a 400lb-man violently attacking a police officer in a manner that put the lives of police officers at risk.

While the investigations will continue, there is nothing on those tapes to suggest that the police did anything wrong." An investigation into Sunday's incident is being carried out and the officers present, five of them white and one black, have been placed on administrative leave, the normal procedure when someone dies in an incident involving police.

An initial post-mortem examination might help support the claims of the officers that they were acting in self-defence. The test revealed that Mr Jones had an enlarged heart and that his blood contained both cocaine and PCP or angel dust, two drugs that can cause unusual or aggressive behaviour. Carl Parrott, the local coroner, said in a statement: "An opinion as to cause of death will be forthcoming when toxicology results and other investigative material, including reports of medical responders and the videotape of the arrest, have been reviewed."

The incident happened after a female employee at a White Castle restaurant called the emergency services in the early hours of Sunday to report that Mr Jones was lying on the grass outside having passed out. According to copies of police radio transmissions, emergency personnel arrived and reported that Mr Jones was "becoming a nuisance".

Transcripts show that, once police arrived, Mr Jones walked towards an officer who said, "Stay back", before the heavyweight man made a lunge at him. After a struggle with all six officers, Mr Jones was forced onto his stomach and his arms placed behind his back. When he was turned over, it was clear that Mr Jones was in distress and an ambulance was called. He was taken to the local University Hospital but died minutes later.

The Cincinnati branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People yesterday called for changes in the way that police use force to restrain and arrest people. Calvert Smith, the branch president, said: "If proper procedure means that you can use that kind of force to clobber people repeatedly who are clearly disarmed, then there's something wrong with the policy. We want to launch an investigation first ... Should we gather information that suggests that there were unusual uses of force, we will pursue legal action with [Mr Jones' family]."

Black activist groups staged an economic boycott of Cincinnati after the 2001 shooting of Timothy Thomas, 19, who was being sought on charges of fleeing from police. The officer who shot him, Stephen Roach, was later cleared at trial of any criminal charges. A federal investigation of that shooting, requested by the city authorities, resulted in a 2002 agreement by the city to tighten policies regarding use of force and to improve handling of citizen complaints against the police. Last February, a white officer chased and killed a black man seen running from a store that had been broken into.

Police, prosecutors and a citizen review panel concluded the shooting by the officer was justified because the suspect had been beating him with his night-stick.