Review: Rules broken in chase
Some officers and supervisors broke police policies in a chase that ended with 13 officers firing 137 rounds and killing a fleeing driver and his passenger, an internal review showed Wednesday.
Mayor Frank Jackson, in announcing the findings, said disciplinary action would be up to Chief Michael McGrath. If warranted, disciplinary hearings will begin in the coming weeks.
About one-third of the force on duty, or 98 Cleveland officers and 15 supervisors, had a role in the Nov. 29 chase.
It began with a report of gunfire outside police headquarters and ended in a barrage of gunfire that killed the driver, Timothy Russell, 43, and his 30-year-old passenger, Malissa Williams. Both had cocaine in their systems and had criminal records.
No weapon or shells were found in their car.
“This review was conducted to provide a clear picture of what took place during the pursuit and to help us determine whether officers and supervisors acted appropriately,” the mayor said in a statement.
“We now have a better picture of what took place during the pursuit, and Chief McGrath can proceed with determining whether individual officers will face discipline as a result of the actions they took that night.”
The county prosecutor is conducting a separate grand-jury investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing. The 13 officers who fired their weapons weren’t included in the internal review but will face one after the grand jury investigation.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said the grand jury investigation would include the Cleveland findings.
“We’re looking at all the information. We have not presented to the grand jury yet,” he said. “We’re leaving no stones unturned, including whatever Cleveland has uncovered.”
Patrick D’Angelo, the lawyer from the patrolmen’s union, told The Plain Dealer the internal review showed the city stood by police policies, perhaps because of concerns about civil liabilities.
“The city is trying to deflect blame,” he said. “It’s a convenient answer to blame police officers and supervisors, but it doesn’t fix the problem,” he said.
Russell was shot 23 times and Williams 24 after a half-hour pursuit.
In a wide-ranging review by state agents, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in February the chase resulted from leadership failures. “Command failed, communications failed, the system failed,” DeWine said.
Some community leaders called the shootings a racially motivated execution. The police union said the shootings were justified because Russell tried to ram an officer.
Some officers also thought the two were armed, and some told state investigators they were frightened and feared for their lives.
The chase went through downtown and residential neighborhoods and onto a freeway before ending with the car blocked at the rear of a school in neighboring East Cleveland. Speeds reached 100 mph, and the 22-minute chase covered 25 miles.