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Second officer sees choke hold

By Kimball Perry, Post staff reporter

A Cincinnati Police officer demonstrated today how Officer Robert ''Blaine'' Jorg used his left arm to cover Roger Owensby's mouth and nose moments before Owensby died during his arrest Nov. 7.

Officer David Hunter Jr. laid on the floor in front of the jury today and demonstrated how Jorg laid on Owensby's head as Jorg, Hunter and Officer Patrick Caton tried to handcuff the battling Owensby.

Jurors stood to watch the demonstration on a mannequin.

''I told Officer Jorg to watch his face so I didn't get him and he leaned back to expose Mr. Owensby's face and I maced him,'' Hunter testified today before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Nurre.

Because of Owensby's death - asphyxiation, likely caused by a choke hold or officers piling on, a coroner ruled - Jorg was indicted for involuntary manslaughter, a charge carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The three officers were at another arrest that night when they saw Owensby walk by them toward the Sunoco at Seymour and Langdon Farm avenues. Hunter recognized Owensby - known on the street as ''L.A.'' - from a Sept. 27 incident in which Owensby warned others in the area that police were coming to make drug arrests. Hunter tried to talk to Owensby about that but Owensby ran.

After the trio confronted Owensby in the store, they asked him to step outside so they could pat him down. That's when Owensby bolted, took two steps outside and was tackled by the officers.

Owensby fell face first. Jorg covered Owensby's head and Caton his lower back as Hunter tried to wrestle Owensby's wrist behind his back to be handcuffed.

Owensby was cuffed only after he maced him, Hunter said, but the handcuffs didn't stop Caton.

Caton, Hunter testified, hit Owensby on the back to get him to submit to being handcuffed - but continued the beating even after Owensby was cuffed and thrown into the back seat of a police cruiser.

''From where I was standing, it appeared that (Caton) was swinging on Mr. Owensby,'' Hunter testified.

The trial for Caton, charged with misdemeanor assault in the same incident, began today before Municipal Court Judge Guy Guckenberger.

After Caton's punches, another officer told Hunter he couldn't see Owensby breathing in the back of the cruiser.

''I couldn't tell if he was breathing or not. That's what concerned me,'' Hunter said.

A police supervisor arrived and ordered Owensby taken from the cruiser. That's when police began performing CPR on him.

Jorg, Hunter noted, said he learned the head-hold he used on Owensby at the Ohio Police Organization Training Academy. But Hunter admitted Cincinnati police forbid officers from attacking the head area unless deadly force is needed to protect the officers or others.

Hunter also saw Jorg use a similar hold previously in another arrest.

The trial, in its second day, is expected to last two weeks.

Publication date: 10-24-01




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