October 25, 2014

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Review says 75 officers violated rules in fatal shooting

CLEVELAND (AP) — A review of a deadly police chase in Cleveland last fall has found that 75 patrol officers violated police department rules, city officials said Friday.

In the November chase, 137 shots were fired at a fleeing driver and passenger who were killed. The 19-mile chase involved five dozen cruisers and wound through neighborhoods before ending in gunfire.

A state report released earlier this year found that dozens of cruisers became involved in the chase without permission from superiors and with little direction. Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Michael McGrath planned to discuss the latest findings at a Friday news conference.

A county grand jury is investigating possible criminal wrongdoing among the 13 officers who fired their weapons as the chase ended in a school parking lot in East Cleveland.

The nighttime chase began when an officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by the police and courts complex in downtown Cleveland. A parking lot attendant thought it might have been a car backfire, a theory endorsed by the driver’s family.

The officer jumped into his patrol car and radioed for help. The chase went through crowded residential neighborhoods, headed onto busy Interstate 90, and eventually into East Cleveland.

Driver Timothy Russell, 43, was shot 23 times and passenger Malissa Williams, 30, was shot 24 times. No weapon or shell casings were found in the fleeing car.

Police say they don’t know why Russell didn’t stop. Russell had a criminal record including convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery. Williams had convictions for drug-related charges and attempted abduction.

The union has said the shootings were justified because the driver tried to ram an officer.

Police previously announced punishments for 12 supervisors stemming from the chase. One sergeant was fired. A captain and lieutenant were demoted, and nine sergeants were suspended.