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Owensby case's new wrinkle: Pot, crack

By Jennifer Edwards, Post staff reporter

Cincinnati police have given the Hamilton County Coroner's office drugs they say were found at the site where Roger Owensby Jr. died Nov. 7 while in custody.

Dr. Carl L. Parrott Jr. said Thursday that tests showed the substances were crack cocaine and marijuana.

Eleven days after the College Hill man died of asphyxiation while in custody, police have yet to issue an official statement on why Owensby was stopped at a Roselawn gas station, why they attempted to apprehend him or exactly how he died.

Now, top police and city officials, including Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr., said they were unaware that drugs were found at the scene. City Manager John Shirey and Safety Director Kent Ryan said late Thursday they had not heard about drugs being turned over to the coroner's office in connection with Owensby.

''I am surprised the media is telling me that we have a confirmation of cocaine and marijuana being found,'' Streicher said late Thursday. ''There's all kinds of speculation and theories out there. I don't know what occurred. . .This giant mystery just keeps rolling on.'' Parrott said Cincinnati Police submitted three items, but he could not say exactly when they were submitted to his office.

''The police found it, as far as I know,'' Parrott said. ''It's my understanding the submission is from Cincinnati Police Division.''

''If the police submitted it, I don't know where it came from,'' said Streicher. ''I don't know what the hell happened. I don't know about the substance or where it came from. . .this is brand new.''

Brenda Owensby hotly denied that her 29-year-old son had drugs on or near him when police apprehended him last week. She said she was highly suspicious that now, several days after her son died in police custody, it is being disclosed that drugs were recovered.

''I don't care less what the police say,'' she said. ''It's a cover up because they could have said this when it first happened. It took too long. It took over a week for them to say that. They can plant whatever they want or say whatever they want. They are just covering.''

Mrs. Owensby said her son never would have gone near crack; however, he did admit to her ''a few years ago'' that he had smoked marijuana, she said.

''I have no qualms about that,'' she said. ''I didn't like it, but I heard about it and asked him, and he told me yes. I don't know anything about selling it, but he had smoked it. I don't know how often he did it.''

Owensby's criminal record shows prior convictions for misdemeanor drug possession, driving without a license and improper lights. He was last jailed Oct. 13 and charged with preparation of drugs for sale when police said they found marijuana and hashish during a traffic stop. That case was thrown out for lack of evidence.

A security camera tape viewed by The Post shows that the night of Nov. 7, Owensby was approached by police as he left the Roselawn service station. He voluntarily raised his shirt to show that there was nothing in his waistband and an officer then patted Owensby down but did not appear to remove any items. But as an officer was about to handcuff him, he bolted away.

Officers caught Owensby just outside the store where they scuffled and he then was put in the back of a cruiser. He was taken to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The coroner ruled that he died from suffocation, possibly from either a choke hold or officers piling on his back.

The five officers involved have refused to answer questions concerning the death, invoking their legal right to remain silent.

Publication date: 11-18-00






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