No hate crime charges in July 4 Fountain Square melee

No hate crime charges in July 4 Fountain Square melee

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Three people accused of beating a man after a July 4 concert on Fountain Square will not be charged with hate crimes, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced on Tuesday.

Last week, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell asked Deters to consider hate crime charges after Facebook videos surfaced showing Christopher McKnight beaten and bloody on the pavement. McKnight was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken nose with several abrasions and bruises, according to Deters.

Mordecia Black, 28, Raeshaun Hand, 19, and Steven Montgomery, 18, were indicted Tuesday on charges of felonious assault, aggravated riot and inducing panic in connection with the beating. A juvenile is also charged.

"There has been a lot of discussion as to whether or now the assault on Mr. McKnight was racially motivated. There is no evidence of this," said Deters.

The unrest started as a concert at the square ended around 11 p.m. Only eight officers were patrolling the area when people began hurling bottles and fireworks at police. 60 officers, some in riot gear, responded. Officer Roger Noe and Officer Joe Simpson were struck in the face.

Jy Quynn Britten, 21, and a juvenile suspect are charged with assaulting the officers.  Gary Sheffield, 29, Orlando Thomas, 18, and Tyre Burke, 18, were indicted Tuesday on aggravated riot and inducing panic in connection to the officers' assault.

McKnight was assaulted as the melee spilled to Government Square. The 1-minute video of the beaten victim was uploaded to Facebook and viewed thousands of times. Watch the video at this link. (Warning: Contains graphic images and language.)

Deters said the Hamilton County hate crime statute "only covers five misdemeanors committed with racial motivation. The criminals who assaulted Mr. McKnight did not commit misdemeanors against him, they committed serious felonies. As a result, our "hate crime" statute does not apply."

If convicted on all charges, the beating suspects could face in excess of nine years in prison.

Mayor John Cranley called the incident an "event-based problem" and said more officers should have been patrolling the area. As a result, the remaining Saturday night concert series on Fountain Square was canceled.

The Saturday night hip hop series at Fountain Square has been booked and promoted by Self-Diploma and 3CDC for the past five years. This year's series was originally slated to run until September.

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