Cover Story: Whatever Happened to the Mother?

Timothy Thomas' family is still healing

Apr 5, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

Angela Leisure

Angela Leisure doesn't live here anymore. Three years after Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach killed her son and the city rose in protest, she returned to Chicago.

"I like being close to my family," she says in a telephone interview. "It was too painful to continue living there. Me and my family found it hard to heal there. Everything was so public. It was hard to grieve privately or to have any kind of a private life."

As in Cincinnati, Leisure works for an agency serving mentally retarded and developmentally disabled people.

"I've been in this field 17 years," she says.

She plans to stay in the same field but as an entrepreneur in another city, providing home-support services for the developmentally disabled.

"I am working on starting my own business in Atlanta," she says. "I will be moving there by the end of this year, if it's God's will. I have finally started to rebuild my new life — and what I mean about my new life is I have started to accept the fact that my old life I lived, that included my son, is over, and I cannot continue to go on just existing and not living because I have other children to think about."

The passage of five years hasn't erased the pain Leisure and her family experienced April 7, 2001, when Thomas was killed in a foot chase in Over-the-Rhine.

"It's still real hard," Leisure says. "To me, it don't seem that long. It's still that fresh. I am still in counseling, as is my 15-year-old daughter, and slowly we have started to heal and be able to truly smile again."

Her son's death wasn't the first time Leisure went to city council demanding answers. Five months earlier she had attended a similar meeting following the death of Roger Owensby Jr. — like her son, an unarmed African-American man killed by police.

Leisure says she hopes there will be no more such deaths, but she'll return to Cincinnati if there are.

"I still keep a close ear on Cincinnati, and I pray often that it changes and has learned how to treat all life and people fairly and respectfully," she says. "I don't get back there often because it is still too painful, but I will if they repeat their past disregard for human life. I will always speak out against injustice in that city, no matter where I am, because I meant it when I said in 2001 that I will do all I can to make my son be the last unjust killing by the Cincinnati Police."