Ownsby's Father: We Want Accountability
by Jennifer Greenup
City Hall--Roger Owensby Jr.’s father addressed Cincinnati City Council in chambers for the first time Wednesday, saying that the $6.5 million settlement approved by City Council March 22 was off.
“Five and half years ago I lost my son,” said Roger Owensby Sr. “I have never come to city council before, but last week when the city solicitor sat over there and said that no one was going to be held responsible for my son’s death, I had to come.”
When asked by a member of council to explain the settlement in a little more detail, the assistant had said that the settlement was not an admission of guilt and that the officers involved in the case were also covered under the settlement.
There were two things that were supposed to happen, said Owensby. He was to get a letter of apology from the city and his granddaughter was to be taken care of.
“She said that it’s all about the money,” said Owensby. “It’s not about the money, ladies and gentlemen. All of you would fight for your child and that is all I have been doing.”
Mayor Mark Mallory quickly diffused the situation. He asked to speak private with Mr. Owensby for a few minutes and they left the council chamber. Owensby’s lawyer, Paul B. Martins was also present.
When the group emerged from their short impromptu meeting, the settlement agreement was back on. Mayor Mallory said that there had been a misunderstanding and that they had worked everything out.
“All I want is for the city and my family to move forward,” said Owensby. “We got it worked out and no more needs to be said about it.”
“This has been very emotional for the family,” said Mallory. “From all I have observed he has been through a lot.”
Roger Owensby Jr. died in 2000 of manual asphyxiation while in police custody after being mistaken for a wanted drug suspect. The police did not find any drugs on Owensby Jr. and all the officers involved signed affidavits that he cooperated fully.
Owensby Jr.’s death had sparked racial tensions and unrest throughout the city and the settlement was an important step forward for the city and its new representatives.
Mayor Mallory said at the March 22 council meeting the city needed to settle the case.
“It will allow the family to find closure and allows the city and its citizens to heal their wounds,” said Mallory. “I have heard people say that $6.5 is too much, but you can’t put a price tag on a person’s life.”
Councilwomen Laketa Cole said that Owensby Jr.’s death was a very unfortunate situation and the public should know the truth about what happened. She wanted to make it clear to the public that Owensby was not a criminal who happened to be killed in police custody.
The Council approved the $6.5 million settlement to the Roger Owensby Jr. family by a vote of 8-1.
Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QueenCityForum.com Magazine.