Aaron Roe family protests drowning death

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Two weeks after his death, Aaron Roe’s family is trying to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else.

Two of his cousins, Rhonda VanHorn and Craig Boggs, protested outside the Ironton Police Department on Friday morning.

VanHorn, of Lloyd, Ky., said she was out to make sure people were aware of what happened and to see police procedures changed.

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Aaron Roe died on June 2 after jumping in the Ohio River to avoid police. According to police records, the incident began at 1:22 a.m. Saturday morning when a person from the Fuzzy Duck bar and restaurant called police and advised a walk-thru was needed “ASAP,” A second call from another unidentified male a moment later advised there was a “large crowd getting ready to fight.”

Allen Roe, Aaron Roe’s twin brother, said they had gone to the Fuzzy Duck to listen to a band. Allen Roe said his brother threw his hand into the air and struck a ceiling fan. When police were called, Aaron Roe ran and jumped into the river. Allen Roe said as he tried to help his brother out of the river, a police officer handcuffed him and put him in a cruiser, preventing him from helping his brother.

Aaron Roe’s body was recovered on June 3 near when he went into the water.

VanHorn said she would like to see the police officers and the bars along the river have flotation rescue devices for emergencies like Aaron’s.

“We want to see things change,” she said. “And we don’t want to see something like this happen to someone else.”

She said the Ironton Police Department should be held accountable for her cousin’s death.

“Whether it was out of ignorance or negligence, I think they need to be held accountable especially since they TASERED him,” she said. “I think the police officers should be trained in water rescue if there are going to be bars along the river and they need to have flotation devices in their vehicles.”

Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey said that in his 18 years on the force nothing like this has happened before.

Besides an investigation by the Ironton Police Department, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is looking into the matter. Carey said he called BCI.

“They are doing an independent investigation, they will do their own investigation and we will not participate and they will come to their own conclusions,” Carey said. The BCI report is not available yet but is expected within two weeks. Carey said he would release his department’s report when BCI releases theirs.

Carey said that he has ordered throw ropes for the patrol cars as well as other flotation devices and would be in soon.

Boggs, of South Shore, Ky., said there has to be a procedure change for all police departments up and down the Ohio River.

“I feel like they need to train some of their police officers for water rescue,” he said. “They need more rescue training. There are numerous times stuff happens on the river bank and this won’t be the last time something like this happens.”

He said he felt it was a waste that the safety procedures weren’t in place already.

“You have a city on the river, you have bars along the river, it’s a playground,” Boggs said. “The cruisers should already have flotation devices”

Carey said after the reports are released there will be a review of the police procedures.

“I don’t really see any major changes,” he said, adding they don’t have any policies about chasing suspects into the river.

“This is the first time this has happened since I’ve been here that we have been involved in a situation like this,” he said. “I can’t recall us ever being called to the river for someone who is drowning, so this is all new to us.”

VanHorn said she doesn’t know if the family is planning on legal action against the police department.

“They haven’t said anything to me and they probably won’t tell anyone to anything,” she said. “It’s only been two weeks, they are still healing and hurting very badly. I think they are more concerned about coping.”

VanHorn said her cousin was a wonderful young man with a kind heart and she wanted other people to learn from what happened.

“It could happen to your child,” she said. “If you think your child doesn’t go out and have a beer every now and then, you’re wrong. This is just a terrible loss.”