With an angry crowd filling Cincinnati City Council chambers April 9, demanding answers about another fatal police shooting, Mayor Charlie Luken had other things to do.
Luken left the Law and Public Safety Committee meeting around 4:15 p.m. while about 150 African Americans besieged the committee and police officials (see "A Death Too Far," page 13). Speakers demanded an explanation for the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, the 15th black man killed by Cincinnati Police since 1995.
When the crowd left City Hall about two hours later, assembling in front of the steps of the building, Luken quickly walked away, going east on Eighth Street and Garfield Avenue.
Asked why he left the meeting, Luken said, "I have a lot of things to do. I came back. Did you know that?"
Luken said a casual observer might not have seen him return to the meeting, because members of the audience kept him from sitting with other city council members.
"Somebody took my seat," he said.
Asked about the meeting, Luken said he could add little to Police Chief Thomas Streicher's limited comments.
"In the instant case, it's an ongoing murder investigation," he said.
Neither police nor the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office have characterized the case as a murder investigation.
Asked what he can do as mayor in the face of public anger at police, Luken said he doesn't know.
"We've got to figure out a way to stop people from dying," he said. "I don't know how we do that."
Luken is so far the only candidate for the "strong mayor" position that will be on the Cincinnati ballot this fall for the first time.
So where did he go during the tense committee meeting?
"I don't even know," says mayoral aide Brendan Cull. "Sometimes he goes to meetings that aren't on the schedule, if it's family or something. He does sometimes as he pleases. We only schedule for things for the mayor's office."