CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A Cincinnati police officer was shot at as protests over George Floyd’s death spanned into a third day early Sunday, police said.
The bullet struck the officer’s riot shield and ballistic helmet and he was not hurt, Police Chief Eliot Isaac said.
It’s not clear who shot at the officer or why he was targeted, Issac said.
It happened as police and a SWAT team dispersed a large disorderly crowd at McMillan Street and Ohio Avenue in Clifton Heights just before 12:30 a.m.
The incident remains under investigation.
Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco urged calm in a tweet early Sunday.
Initially, Cincinnati police said an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper’s helmet was struck, but later they corrected their statement to say it was one of their officers.
Police were in the area of McMillan Street and Ohio Avenue as they tried to disperse the crowd of protesters who ultimately threw several trash cans into the street and started fires, including one that blazed for several minutes in the middle of the road.
During the confrontation, protesters hurled bottles and rocks at police, authorities said.
Some business windows were smashed and at least two Cincinnati police vehicles were damaged near the University of Cincinnati.
“The Cincinnati Police Department, in coordination with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, did a great job yesterday," Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said early Sunday. “They were very measured and I think all people of Cincinnati continue to owe them a great deal of gratitude and that is in the context of COVID-19.”
Ohio still has a ban on most mass gatherings of more than 10 people due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there is an exception for free-speech demonstrations, according to Dr. Amy Acton’s latest health order, released Friday night.
"The officer whose helmet was hit by a bullet last night could have been a totally different outcome. It’s only by the grace of God that that officer got to go home to his family and I am very happy about that. He deserves to go home to his family. But it also underscores just how dangerous it is out there for our police officers every day and I think citizens who aren’t relatives of officers don’t fully appreciate the risks that our officers are taking.”
City officials imposed a curfew Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and the West End at 10 p.m Saturday, but a large crowd of protesters still walked up Vine Street into the Clifton and Corryville area near UC.
At the height of the unrest there, an estimated 200 people were seen walking on McMillan Street and other areas near UC, authorities tell FOX19 NOW.
Several arrests were made Saturday and early Sunday.
“We have had over 30 arrests and we will continue to arrest citizens as they continue to break the curfew," Smitherman said.
The same curfew will be in effect Sunday night.
Councilman David Mann tells FOX19 NOW he thinks the curfew should be extended to the UC area.
“The near-miss with the officer reminds us that it is so easy for these nighttime protests to lead to tragic consequences. We all have to proceed with great care and respect for person and property," Mann said.
Councilman Jeff Pastor called it “unacceptable” “crazy” and "insane."
“These are horrendous acts against the Cincinnati Police Department, who in my opinion, have no characteristics of that officer who clearly was using excessive force against Mr. George Floyd,” Pastor said.
“For these protesters to take their anger and frustration out on the Cincinnati Police Department shows these protests are becoming misguided. I strongly believe most of these folks who are committing acts of violence against Cincinnati police officers are paid, agitators. I would be interested to find out how many are actually from Cincinnati.”
This is not the first time a Cincinnati police officer has literally dodged a bullet while protecting and serving our community during civil unrest.
At the height of Cincinnati’s riots in April 2001, Police Specialist Andrew Nogueira was assigned to a mobile field force unit when he was dispatched to Vine and Green streets for “persons looting”, according to the city’s website.
An unknown suspect appeared and fired one shot at Nogueira. The bullet hit his gun buckle, ricocheting into his body armor.
Nogueira was not seriously injured, received a Personal Sacrifice Award from the department, and continues his career policing in Cincinnati.
The shooter was never found.