July 22, 2014

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Prosecutor: Cleveland police chase should have stopped

 

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty makes a statement regarding the grand jury indictment of six police officers involved in a November 2012 car chase that ended in the deaths of two unarmed people. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty makes a statement regarding the grand jury indictment of six police officers involved in a November 2012 car chase that ended in the deaths of two unarmed people. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland police should have stopped a car chase in November 2012 long before it ended with officers firing 137 rounds and killing two unarmed people, an Ohio prosecutor said in court filings.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty filed a motion in common pleas court Thursday in response to a request for a gag order by the attorneys representing Patrolman Michael Brelo, who was indicted last month on two counts of voluntary manslaughter. Five supervisors have been charged with misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty for failing to control the chase. All have pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for the 30-year-old Brelo sought the gag order because they say McGinty’s negative comments about the chase have violated Brelo’s right to a fair trial. The motion said many of the comments were made months before a county grand jury handed up an indictment.

McGinty responded with a motion opposing the gag order. That motion included a number of previously undisclosed details about the chase.

The motion said the pursuit turned into a “Blues Brothers” situation that ended with Brelo standing on the hood of a car driven by Timothy Russell and firing 15 rounds through the windshield from 5 feet away, shots the prosecutor alleged killed the 43-year-old Russell and his passenger, 30-year-old Malissa Williams.

McGinty’s “Blues Brothers” movie comment referenced a scene in the 1980 comedy that included a police chase involving dozens of cruisers.

McGinty wrote that supervisors could have called off the chase and, using the identification of Williams and his vehicle, found him later. Officers pursued Williams’ car because they thought they had heard gunshots. Officials now believe Russell’s car had backfired.

The chase began near downtown Cleveland and eventually involved 104 officers and 62 police cruisers traveling 20 miles in 23 minutes on city streets and interstates at speeds reaching 110 mph. It ended in the parking lot of a suburban Cleveland school, where 13 officers, including Brelo, surrounded Russell’s car and fired more than 100 rounds into the vehicle.

McGinty’s motion said the length of time and the speed of the chase were “excessive by all standards of law and common sense.” The motion said officers created a nearly 360-degree “firing circle” around the car when they began firing.

“It is quite simply a miracle there were no additional injuries or fatalities,” McGinty wrote.

The other 12 officers who discharged their weapons that night were not charged criminally. McGinty said after the indictment of Brelo and the supervisors that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled officers may use excessive deadly force when they fear their lives in danger.

The motion said there was a delay of more than four seconds between the first salvo and when Brelo jumped on the hood and continued to fire. Brelo discharged 49 rounds that night.

“Brelo went beyond any justifiable action jumping on the hood of the Malibu and emptying his service weapon into Russell and Williams,” McGinty wrote in his motion.

Russell was shot 23 times and Williams 24 times.

The motion for a gag order cited what attorneys say were McGinty’s prejudicial comments about police. The gag order request said that when McGinty was asked about the officers’ actions, he responded: “The buffalo are coming. They may not be stampeding, but they are coming.”

McGinty asked the judge to reject the gag order because of comments by police union officials. He cited in the motion a comment from a union official who called the events of Nov. 29, 2013, a “perfect chase.”

Spokesman Joe Frolik said McGinty would not comment further about the motion or the case.

Brelo’s main attorney, Patrick D’Angelo, did not return telephone calls Friday morning.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been conducting an extensive investigation into the Cleveland police department’s use of deadly force and pursuit policies.

  • Mark B

    No way , police never do ANYTHING wrong .

  • Jim

    So… according to McGinty it is far safer to just let someone whom police believe is shooting at them to go free, because the police can just go pick him up later. Is he crazy? If police reasonably believe someone is shooting at them, you can assume this is someone who will kill anyone to avoid going to jail and they will not just give themselves up easily at some future time.

    It’s easy for McGinty to tell the police how they should do their job from his cushy office with his crystal ball that allows him to analyze the past with 20/20 vision.

    • tickmeoff

      Who polices the police or are they above the law? If the police are never found wrong, they themselves become part of the criminal element. When Brelo lost his head, he also chose to lose his freedom. Nobody is above the law, especially the one’s who enforce it. You would think somebody would have been sharp enough to plant a gun, remember that was common with the Houston police. If nobody pays for this travesty of justice, no one will be able to blame people for defending themselves against the police, for they will have lost all their credibility. There are good cops and bad cops, just like in any profession. There is no excuse on earth for the over reaction that occurred that night. They were cornered and they had no weapons to shoot back, fear or no fear, when they put on that badge, they put themselves into bad situations. It is best for everybody, especially the Cleveland FOP, that they let somebody take the blame, if they don’t, the logic on the street would be shoot them before they shoot you because they are dirty, and nobody polices them. Police are human, and the overwhelming majority are fine human beings, but you need to throw out the few bad apples. The problem is these people were unarmed and in a corner. the police were not being fired at.
      Put Brelo in prison where he belongs, the people have to believe the police can police their own, or every cop then becomes a target.
      If you can’t trust the police, if you can;t trust their credibility, the street logic would be to get them before they get you. Sorry, FOP or no FOP, One cop is not more important than 700 of them. Put him in jail, what he did was criminal, two wrongs does not make a right. Where Brelo belongs is in prison. He wasn’t being shot at!

  • Brian_Reinhardt

    The prosecutor needs to keep his big trap shut until he’s in court. Sounds like he’s trying to taint the jury pool and using his public office to do so.

  • Edward Nonamaker

    Innocent people do not flee !

    • Mark B

      Suppose they were teenagers and were just scared and fled , and then the cops shoot them 147 times . It started WRONG when the cop was WRONG about a shot being fired ,instead of a back fire, Who made the FIRST wrong decision? Either way the penalty for fleeing is still not execution in the streets .