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Call and Post

Cleveland officers indicted in ‘137 shots’ shooting

James W. Wade III | 6/3/2014, 9:01 p.m.

Since the night of November 29, 2012, the community has been waiting for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office to share their verdict about the 13 officers involved in the murder of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell.

Last Friday, May 30, Tim McGinty held a press conference to share his findings that indicted six Cleveland police officers for their roles when they open fire, launching 137 shots at the victims. Michael Brelo, who fired from the hood of the car, was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony.

The Grand Jury also accused five supervisors of dereliction of duty: sergeants Randolph Dailey, Patricia Coleman, Jason Edens, Michael Donegan and Lt. Paul Wilson, McGinty shared at the press conference.

Brelo has been suspended without pay, while four supervisors have been placed on restricted duty. Donegan was fired last year. Brelo fired 49 shots after a 23-minute chase that began at the Justice Center in Cleveland and ended in an East Cleveland middle school parking lot.

“The family will not make any comments right now but this is a historic event. The prosecutors have indicted an officer for manslaughter in an excessive force case. That just doesn,t happen,” said Paul Cristallo, the Russell’s attorney.

McGinty said, after officers fired more than 100 shots at the car, Brelo started shooting again and fired at least 15 shots, including fatal ones, downward through the windshield into the victims at close range as he stood on the hood of Russell's car.

“This was now a stop-and-shoot, no longer a chase and shoot, the law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot,” said McGinty.

During the press conference in his crowded 9th floor office, McGinty showed pictures of the crime scene and video on the screen while talking. “Let’s be clear what happened here, Russell was fully stopped. Escape was no longer even a remote possibility. The flight was over. The public was no longer in danger because the car was surrounded by police cars and 23 police officers in a schoolyard safely removed from pedestrians and traffic,” said McGinty.

He also talked about how the supervisors failed to control and manage the chase. “The primary danger facing the police at this time was from them, if they continued to shoot at each other in the circular firing squad they had inadvertently formed. After the ceasefire, Officer Brelo unleashed an unlawful, second barrage of shots,” said McGinty.

After McGinty’s press conference, Mayor Frank Jackson held one at Cleveland City Hall with Police Chief Calvin Williams, Safety Director Michael McGrath, and Community Relations Director Blaine Griffin.

“As mayor of the City of Cleveland, I will say that, when officers and their supervisors face criminal charges in connection with their time on the job, it is a challenge for our entire community, residents and police officers,” said Jackson.

Williams spoke about the next steps and how they will equip 200 officers with body cams.

The Call & Post asked, why no dash cams?

“We chose to do body cams because officers are out of the cars more and we want to capture everything that happens,” said Williams.

Councilmen Jeff Johnson and Zack Reed both agree with McGinty that dash cams are needed. “We have to do all we can to combat crime in Cleveland. Each day, our numbers are rising. We are now up to 41,” said Reed.

Jackson spoke about their policies and how they will do things the right way, again asking the community to be patient in the process. “We pledge full cooperation with all investigative authorities and promise a thorough, transparent and fair administrative review of the actions off police involved,” said Jackson.

The Police Union was on hand CPPA President Jeffrey Follmer which represents the five supervisors charged with dereliction of duty, maintain the actions of officers were justified.