Officials review 137 shots case

James W. Wade III | 3/12/2014, 9:02 a.m.
The chase started when police believed either Russell or Williams fired a shot while riding around downtown Cleveland near the ...

This past Saturday, Cleveland and East Cleveland citizens came together to try to recreate the events that led 13 Cleveland Police officers firing 137 shots into the car driven by Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Both were killed on that November 2012 night.

Over a year later, many in the community are still screaming for something to happen to these officers. No gun was found in the car or even on the chase route.

Meeting at the scene of the crime in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland was the 1979 Chevrolet Malibu riddled with the 137 shots fired on the night of in the killing.

The chase started when police believed either Russell or Williams fired a shot while riding around downtown Cleveland near the Justice Center. During various press conferences and updates, it was reveled that close to 60 Cleveland police cars took part in the 30-minute pursuit at various times.

They kept the media far away but personnel from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office, the county sheriff's department, the county medical examiner's office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation were measuring and taking notes on what possibly could have happen.

Joe Frolik, from Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s office, said they were trying not to do a re-enactment of the shooting, rather an examination of what happened.

“We are gathering information, running some tests,” said Frolik.

Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer spoke against the media circus and shared it was nothing more then a McGinty production. “They are doing this during the day. If this is any kind of re-enactment, there are no lights, no sirens. You can’t come away with the officers’ perceptions, and the threat they felt that night,” said Follmer.

The 13 officers have not been charged. Last August, the city announced 75 Cleveland patrol officers were found in violation of departmental rules and regulations for their roles in the chase.

In June, one supervisor was fired, two were demoted and nine others suspended following disciplinary hearings about their involvement in the case. But McGrath said the numerous violations of department policies confirmed by the months-long review does not alter his opinion that officers are adequately trained, an assertion that drew criticism from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Jackson shared what he called the unprecedented release of information from DeWine’s office. It included thousands of pages of interviews with individual officers saying it should have been withheld until after the investigation was completed. Jackson said, before the DeWine’s press conference, he received a call from DeWine expressing his feelings about what happened.

“If those two victims were dogs, there would have been more attention paid to them and they would have been given more consideration to due process,” Jackson said.

Jackson said Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell were denied due process when they were killed in a hail of police bullets.

Jackson has not been silent about the shooting. From the mayor’s dialogue with the media, it is clear he has concern for the two victims. Jackson said any failures during the chase resulted from police supervisors and rank-and-file officers who didn’t follow department procedures. There was a failure. It was not systemic. It was a failure on the part of some supervisors and some patrol officers to do what they knew they should have done, and what they were trained to do, Jackson stated.