Judge: Citizen police review board can't interview cops before criminal cases resolved

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Cincinnati citizen police oversight panel can't interview two officers or hold a hearing about their exchange of gunfire with a suspect before the man's related criminal case is resolved, a Hamilton County judge ruled this week.

The development ends, at least for now, a dispute between Cincinnati's Citizen Complaint Authority (CCA) and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters over when the independent board  has the right to question police.

The police union president, Sgt. Dan Hils, announced the decision Thursday in a Facebook post.

"This order returns respect to the work our officers do. I appreciate Mr. Deters and Judge (Tom) Heekin for this action," Hils wrote on the union's page, Support the Blue in Cincy.

CCA reviews allegations of police misconduct and incidents. conducting its own investigations into police use of force.

It resulted from the city's landmark 2002 Collaborative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the cornerstone of the post-2001 riot police reforms.

Seven trained board members, with a staff of full-time investigators, were to hear complaints and allegations from the public of Cincinnati police misconduct, identify trends and make recommendations to the city manager.

CCA replaced and combined the Citizens Police Review Panel and the Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI), which critics said were ineffective.

The board wanted to interview District 4 Officers Ken Grubbs and William Keuper about the events of March 12, 2017.

Deters has cleared both officers of any wrongdoing.

He filed a motion in January asking the court to block CCA from interviewing them until after his office completes its criminal case against the suspect, Damion McRae.

The judge agreed with Deters, writing in his decision that requiring them to testify before his trial "would interfere with the prosecution's criminal case."

Heekin granted an injunction blocking CCA from doing any interviews or hearings with any police officers who are witnesses in the case.

"It is well-established that prosecuting authorities are entitled to complete prosecutions without interference by other bodies," the judge wrote in his decision.

Anyone who violates the order will face swift consequences. The judge's order directs law enforcement to immediately take offenders into custody and hold them without bond until they appear in court, where they face contempt charges.

"and bring them before the court

The officers encountered the eight-time convicted felon who was out on parole when they responded to a report of domestic violence at a Walnut Hills apartment complex.

McRae was armed with a Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm carbine with an extended magazine and fired at both officers without provocation, Deters has said.

Grubbs was shot in the lower abdomen but returned fire as he fell to the ground, wounded.

Keuper also fired his gun.

McRae, 38, was shot five times and survived.

He is held in lieu of $50,000 bond at the Hamilton County jail on several charges including attempted murder

The case has been postponed several times and is now scheduled for jury trial Oct. 15.

Both Grubbs - even after he was shot and on the ground suffering and moaning from an excruciatingly painful injury - and his partner fired back to defend themselves.

Both held McRae at gunpoint until other officers arrived and secured McRae.

After Grubbs was shot, he fired 17 shots and reloaded his gun once, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said.

Keuper fired eight rounds.

McRae fired two shots before his carbine jammed.

Or, Deters has said, it could be possible one of the bullets fired by the officers disabled the weapon.

"It really was an act of God that saved these two cops," Deters said in a March 2017 news conference."If that gun hadn't jammed, we could be unfortunately going to a couple of funerals.

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