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Officers suspended from 137 shot chase

James W. Wade III | 10/21/2013, 2:40 p.m.
Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Michael McGrath at press conference Tues., Oct. 15, where many officers were suspended for the chase on Nov. 29, 2012.

The community is still wondering why police shot 137 bullets into the vehicle driven by Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams?

Why did the 20 minute chase involve 13 Cleveland police and over police 50 cars?

These were some of the many questions asked during a press conference where Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath announced that 178 suspension days have been issued against 64 officers found guilty of violations in the November chase.

The 64 officers do not include the 13 officers who were involved in the actual shooting. This is not the criminal part of the investigation.

“The two victims are never considered and, if they were two dogs, they would get more attention,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

The most any officer received was 10 days and three officers were terminated and two officers received written warnings and 9 non-disciplinary letters of reinstruction. The suspects, Russell and Williams, died and no weapon was found in their car or on the chase route.

McGarth said 20 officers had their case heard before Safety Director Martin Flask. Fifty-four officers had their case heard by him.

The incident has been likened to the movie death of Bonnie and Clyde.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office said Williams suffered multiple 24 gunshot wounds to the head, neck, trunk (chest area), and left arm with multiple visceral, vascular, and skeletal injuries.

Police declared it a homicide. Russell was shot 23 times.

What is unclear to the community is how the pursuit supposedly started. It all began when a second district officer said shots were fired near police headquarters in downtown Cleveland and allegedly came from the car occupied by Russell and Williams.

In the past McGrath has stated that 277 officers were working that night and 104 officers were involved with the pursuit in some capacity including blocking intersections or trying to catch up with the pursuit.

Of the 104 officers, 74 officers will face disciplinary action. Of those 74 officers, 64 were found guilty of administrative infractions from speeding to failing to get permission to join the pursuit.

The chief talked about a recent policy change that forbids officers from firing at or from moving vehicles may not have prevented the shootout. The policy change was the result of a comprehensive study of Cleveland police policies and procedures in regard to use of force. The study found the department’s policies are sound and comprehensive.

The Black community is still waiting for the action’s that will administered against the 13 officers involved in the shooting. So many gray areas around what happen that night, which includes one officer standing on the hood of a car shooting.

In 2014, the department will also change the way it trains supervisors. Supervisors will be separated from patrol officers during portions of their training and be given additional instruction on leadership and management practices.

Jackson has been very vocal about this situation since last year when it happened. Jackson came out and questioned Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine way of handling the investigation of the police chase. The mayor feels the statements by DeWine tainted the due process for the officers involved in the case and for the victims.

Jackson shared how DeWine called him before the press conference.

“He called me before he released the report and said the officers didn’t do anything wrong and then he said that if, he were the county prosecutor, he wouldn’t do anything to them,” said Jackson.