Press "Enter" to skip to content

Young Black Cincinnatians May Not Have Lived Through 2001’s Unrest, But They Know It Well

Jolene Almendarez, WVXU |

It’s been 20 years since a Cincinnati police officer killed Timothy Thomas, an unarmed Black teen in Over-the-Rhine – at the time, one of many deaths of Black men by police in the city – sparking demonstrations and protests. Last summer, police use of force was pushed into the national spotlight again after officers killed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Earlier this month, several young people spoke in a roundtable discussion about how the 2001 civil unrest intersects with similar calls for justice now.

WVXU

Amir Shackelford, Aubrey Jones and Noah Hawes are all age 20 or younger and agreed to meet at Elementz, a hip-hop cultural arts center not far from where the 19-year-old Thomas was killed in 2001. Most of them weren’t born then, but having grown up in Cincinnati, they each know a few different things about the unrest.


Officer Stephen Roach shot and killed Thomas in a dark alley as he ran from police. Roach said he thought Thomas was reaching for a gun, but reports later said Thomas was likely pulling up his baggy pants. Thomas was being arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors, mostly traffic citations. Roach was eventually acquitted of negligent homicide during a bench trial. Less than a year later, he was hired as an officer in Evendale.


Shackelford, 18, was active in the protests last summer, marching and going to City Hall. He’s a senior at the School for Creative and Performing Arts and does theater with Aubrey Jones.

Jones, 17, helped organize some protests and spoke at a few rallies. She’s biracial and says she’s scared for the safety of her two older Black brothers because the current justice system isn’t designed to protect them.

Noah Hawes, 20, says despite not trusting officials, it helps bridge the gap to see diversity in the city’s leadership.

Gamma LeBeau is 34 and a mentor to some of the kids at Elementz. He remembers the 2001 civil unrest and was friends with Thomas’ younger brother, Terry.

Questions discussed in the roundtable:

  • Reflecting on the killing of George Floyd and the 2020 demonstrations
  • The major issues during the summer of 2020
  • How they got involved
  • Do you all trust that your local officials and the local police have made changes for the better since last year?
  • What do you know about Timothy Thomas and the 2001 civil unrest?
  • Tell me how you and your peers of different races have experienced the racial divide in policing.
  • Do you think the 2001 and 2020 civil unrest have moved people closer to a more just society?

Cincinnati: 20 Years of Change?

Kyle Inskeep, WKRC |

This Local 12 News special report takes an in-depth look at that death and the days of unrest that followed in April of 2001. It examines the changes to police-community relations and also changes in Cincinnati socially and economically.

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – It’s been 20 years since Timothy Thomas was shot and killed by a Cincinnati police officer.
This Local 12 News special report takes an in-depth look at that death and the days of unrest that followed in April of 2001. It examines the changes to police-community relations and also changes in Cincinnati socially and economically.

Skip to content