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"Systemic Failure": DeWine releases report on Cleveland Police shootings

 
Posted February 5th, 2013 @ 1:10pm

(Richfield) - There is nothing "normal" about this case. That's what Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said about the investigation into the deadly Cleveland Police chase and shooting in November.

Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot to death at the end of the chase. 13 officers fired 137 rounds November 29.

After conducting 120 interviews and reviewing all available evidence, DeWine says ithe Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation produced 290 investigative reports contained in the synopsis.

 Click here for a link to the AG's report.

He calls it a "systemic failure" of the Cleveland Police Department that failed the officers involved. 

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty says all of the information will be presented to the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury for potential charges.

Listen to DeWine describe the chase moment by moment and shot by shot:

     

Prosecutor Tim McGinty and Attorney General Mike DeWine

According to DeWine, the chase took place November 29 and started near East 18th during a traffic stop. The vehicle accelerated away down Superior Avenue.

As the vehicle passed the Justice Center, two officers heard a "loud bang" that they believed was a gunshot aimed at them. Several others witnesses also heard what they thought was a gunshot. 

After examining the subject's vehicle, DeWine says it was determined that the vehicle had a history of a backfiring. 

The chase began, believing the two suspects inside were armed. In fact, several officers reported seeing a suspect in the car pointing a gun.

The pursuit that followed last 22 minutes and hit speeds of 120 miles an hour. In all, DeWine says 62 police vehicles took part in the pusuit, or followed close behind.

Police radio traffic indicated that police believed the passenger had a gun and had fired at officers. The 13 officers involved in the shooting all testified they had heard radio traffic indicating that the suspect had a gun and fired.

One officer also radioed that the passenger did not have a gun, but rather gloves and a red pop can. 

 
Jeff Follmer of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association attended

The chase ended Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland where it was radioed that the suspect was "reloading". 

The school was a dead-end parking lot, and police blocked the only entrance. Police were located on both sides of the subject's vehicle.

At one point, an officer says he saw the passenger reaching for a gun, and believed the subject had already fired at officers. He fired one to three times.

The suspect's car then accelerated toward a police car and an officer fired at the driver. 

The subject vehicle began to accelerate toward the exit, narrowly missing other police vehicles. The car traveled directly at another officer.

Fearing he was about to be struck, the officer fired toward the car, firing 12 rounds.

The subject's vehicle struck a cruiser, causing other officers to believe an officer had been knocked down and fired. 

Other officers also fired at the suspect's car. At least one thought the subjects had guns. Several officers believed the suspects were firing, which turned out to be shots from other officers.

The suspect's car continued forward, with police thinking the occupants were holding weapons. More shots were fired at the car.

All in all, DeWine gave an extremely detailed synopsis of who fired their weapons and why. It appeared to be a chaotic scene.

In all 13 officers fired their weapons, all believing they and other officers were in danger. DeWine says even officers who did not fire testified they felt deadly force was warranted. 

DeWine says investigators searched the suspect's car and surrounding area for a possible weapon, along with the route of the chase to see if a weapon had been thrown from a window. No weapon was found.

There were also no spent shell casings that did not match police officer's weapons. A dive team even searched some waterways near where the chase took place.

DeWine says particles highly indicitive of gunshot residue were found on the hands of Russell and Williams and the interior of the car. But DeWine says this does not mean they fired a weapon since so many police rounds were fired at close range.  

DeWine says both Williams and Russell had consumed cocaine within six hours of the chase beginning. A crack pipe was also found in the car. 

DeWine commended both Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Michael McGrath on their cooperation in the investigation.

Investigators did determine that most of the police vehicles involved in the chase did not get permission to do so. DeWine says that is required under protocol.

DeWine also says some supervisors failed to properly monitor and organize the pursuit. 

DeWine says the Cleveland Police Department has begun working to review policies. 

"This is a tragedy – a tragedy for Timothy Russell, a tragedy for Malissa Williams, and a tragedy for their families.  This has also been very tough for each of the law enforcement officers involved, " said DeWine. 

"To state the obvious, this chase could have ended without tragic results if Timothy Russell had simply stopped the car in response to the police pursuit.  Perhaps the alcohol and cocaine in his system impaired his judgment.  We will never know."  

DeWine also believes that Williams and Russell were never armed.

DeWine calls this a systemic failure in the Cleveland Police Department. He says command and communications failed.

He says it's a miracle that no police officers were injured or killed. DeWine also thinks the system failed the officers involved.



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