October 22, 2014

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Cleveland police suspend 63 officers over deadly chase

Cleveland residents holding up signs in protest of the Cleveland Police Department in Cleveland on Aug. 13. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland residents holding up signs in protest of the Cleveland Police Department in Cleveland on Aug. 13. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

A review of a deadly police chase in Cleveland nearly a year ago has led to suspensions for 63 patrol officers who violated orders and department rules, the city’s police chief said Tuesday.

A fleeing driver and passenger were killed when officers fired 137 shots at them in the 23-minute chase that involved five dozen cruisers and wove through residential neighborhoods before ending in gunfire.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said the suspensions were the result of disciplinary hearings, and violations ranged from insubordination to driving too fast during the chase.

The hearings did not involve any of the officers involved in the shooting because a county grand jury is investigating possible criminal wrongdoing among the 13 officers who fired their weapons. No weapon or shell casings were found in the fleeing car.

An initial review of the chase found 75 patrol officers violated orders, but the disciplinary hearings reduced that number to 64 officers. All but one received a suspension, with the longest being 10 days, McGrath said.

None of the violations was so serious it warranted termination. Some of the officers received a written warning.

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.

The nighttime chase began last November when an officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by the police station 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 neighborhoods, onto Interstate 90, and eventually ended in East Cleveland.

Driver Timothy Russell, 43, was shot 23 times and passenger Malissa Williams, 30, was shot 24 times.

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

McGrath said Tuesday that some of the officers continued the chase after being told to stop because they thought an officer was in trouble. He said the officers who were disciplined were honest and professional during the review process. He also said police supervisors failed to take charge of the chase and allowed it to escalate.

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


  • Phil Blank

    Suspended?
    Thats all?

    • Bob Sweatt

      What more should have happened?? Not all of them fired their guns.

      Plus, I have said this from the begin. If Russel would have pulled over and NOT lead them on an almost half hour chase. NONE of this would have happened.

      Don’t blame the officers for doing their jobs. Blame the criminal who made it happen.

      • Don Grantzki

        Cops heard a backfire and thought Russell and/or Williams was shooting at them. Russell heard the backfire and thought the cops were shooting at them so he ran. He and she knew the cops had reason to arrest them, given their rap sheet, so the chase was on.

        • Bill

          How do you know Russell heard the backfire and thought the cops were shooting at them? Was this a dying declaration he made to the cops?

          • Don Grantzki

            Pure speculation. Why else would he continue to keep running from over seventy cops??

  • MZee

    “some of the officers continued the chase after being told to stop because they thought an officer was in trouble”.

    Ok… disobeying orders. In the end did any of these officers then fire at the suspects? Hmmm….

    And if the officer “was in trouble”, it was when the “shot” was fired. Once he was in pursuit, he was not in trouble.

    • hottamomma

      u r right, cause part of their job is obeying orders, and they said F the supervisor we r gonna keep pursuing.

  • infinitefancies

    Suspended?
    That’s all?

  • billgreg65

    It’s very sad to say this but had the suspects been white, we would not still be hearing about this in the media.

    • Bob Sweatt

      Exactly.

    • Don Grantzki

      Had they been white, they would have stopped long before they could get that many slugs in them.