Today marks the two-year anniversary of the death of David “Bones” Hebert, the gangly, inked vagabond, crafty burrito-maker, Punk rocker and rascal whose life ended abruptly one night in Northside, when Cincinnati Police Sergeant Andrew Mitchell fired two rounds into Bones’ thin frame.
Bones, who was described by his army of acquaintances as peaceful and thoughtful, left behind a legacy that sparked his friends to form Friends of Bones, a collective formed in response to his fatal police shooting, whose goal is “to support those directly involved in the case, to raise awareness about police violence in our community, and to bring about policy change in police procedures, training, and equipment, while encouraging responsible city leadership.”
That spurred the estate of David Paul Hebert to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Sergeant Mitchell on April 18, 2012, a year after the shooting. According to a press release from Paul Carmack, executor of the Hebert estate, the lawsuit today has been expanded to include the city of Cincinnati alleging Monell Claims (referring to municipal officials unconstitutionally or incorrectly dealing with a police misconduct claim) as well as Cincinnati Police officers Lawrence Johnson, Brian Kneller and Nicolino Stavale, for contributing to an atmosphere of danger. (See the expanded lawsuit in its entirety here.)
Bones was walking his dog, Shady, with a female friend around 3 a.m. the night of his death. Minutes before, a new acquaintance of Bones, Jason Weller, called 911 to report a man described as Bones to have recently stolen a pirate sword from his apartment, leaving Weller bloodied and alone. Although several of his friends admit he was inclined toward rowdy and wreckless behavior when he was intoxicated, but not violent.
Shortly after police stopped Bones and took his official statement, the police report alleges, “Mr. Hebert pulled a 13-inch switchblade knife with a six-inch blade from his pocket, raised his arm, and made a swiping motion with the knife at one of the officers. Sergeant Andrew Mitchell, who was serving as cover officer, drew his firearm as Mr. Hebert turned and stepped toward another officer. Sergeant Mitchell discharged two rounds from his Department-issued firearm, striking Mr. Hebert in left shoulder and left upper chest with both rounds.”
Bones was pronounced dead at the scene, and a toxicology report showed he had a blood alcohol level of .33 and traces of psychedelic mushrooms and marijuana. The investigations following his death — all of which exonerated Mitchell and the Police Department from any fault — brought to light a slew of inconsistencies, including conflicting statements from the officers involved, details about where Bones' knife was ultimately found and discrepancies in Weller's story, all of which form a basis for the current lawsuit. Videos retrieved from a Officer Dawson's cruiser cam also show that officers stood by idly, failing to offer any sort of assistance of resuscitation to Bones, seen here (at the 0:04 second mark, it appears Officer Mitchell kicks Bones' arm to check for consciousness).
Officer Mitchell in 2008 was involved in another police misconduct allegation after the "Bauer Tasing," when he tased an oblivious teenager from his moving police car without any warning or communication. Christopher Bauer, the teen walking home with his hands in his pockets and listening to his iPod, fell forward onto his face, suffering substantial injury.
In the past, Friends of Bones have held fundraisers and community events (often music-oriented, for Bones) to raise awareness about the case and garner support.
A city spokesperson directed CityBeat's inquiry about the expanded lawsuit to the city's law department, which as of Thursday afternoon had not returned a voicemail. This story will be updated if the city provides a response.According to court documents, the case will go before a jury Nov. 11.