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Courts and Crime


State shooting investigation says Cleveland's police failure was 'systemic'
Attorney General Mike DeWine says officers and supervisors failed to follow policies in a chase and shooting that left two people dead
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


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Kevin Niedermier
 
The stack of 290 individual reports from the Ohio Attorney General's office on November's Cleveland police shooting that left 2 people dead.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the Cleveland Police Department suffered a “systemic failure” during the November police chase and shooting that left two people dead. The attorney general today detailed his department’s investigation of the incident, a report that has been passed along to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor for possible criminal charges.
As WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, the investigation details an alleged breakdown in police procedures that led to a chaotic blaze of gunfire in which neither suspect likely pulled a trigger.

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The City of Cleveland requested the review by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation after the high speed chase Nov. 29 that left Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams dead, each shot more than 20 times in an East Cleveland school yard.
 
Today, Attorney General Mike DeWine gave a minute-by-minute account of what the state says transpired that night, after a painstaking, two-month review of police radio recordings, surveillance videos, police reports and officer interviews. In the end, DeWine concludes that the officers involved believed they were in danger from a pair of armed suspects, but many didn’t follow department policies, and supervisors didn’t do their jobs.

“While the beliefs they had were wrong, you can understand how they believed the suspects were armed based on all the information they were receiving. If you compare the police department’s regulations to what happened, there are violations all over the place. There’s a lack of command and control. The supervising officers thought there were three patrol cars involved in the chase.”

Attorney General says police officers and supervisors didn't follow department policies
Sixty-two patrol cars from Cleveland and other jurisdictions were involved in the chase.

The Cleveland police pursuit policy says the radio dispatcher in the district where the chase begins becomes the main dispatcher for all officers joining the pursuit. Officers from other districts must first ask their supervisors for permission to join in, but only three of them did.

And while they’re supposed to switch to the radio frequency of the original district, DeWine says officers missed calls from their district dispatchers ordering them to leave the chase because some dispatchers failed to join the main radio channel. DeWine listed other failures as well. Before the chase began, an officer stopped Russell for a turn signal violation, but never reported it. Later, an officer thought he heard a gunshot come from Russell’s car as Russell raced through downtown Cleveland at 60 mph. Several officers and citizens reported hearing the gunshot as well, but reports say it could have been a backfire from the car.

Pursuing officers say the suspects were pointing a gun at them, but one officer radioed that the driver was not brandishing a gun, but was wearing black gloves and holding a pop can. DeWine then described the chaotic scene in the East Cleveland school yard where officers had the suspects cornered. 

A confusing, frightening scene at the site of the shooting
“Officer Farley described the scene as the scariest thing in his life. He says, as he got out of his car, he didn’t have his bullet-proof vest and shots were coming from all directions.”

Officers fired more than 130 shots in less than 30 seconds, according to the report. But DeWine says the shots police thought were coming from the suspect’s car were actually coming from other officers in the confusion. The report says no gun was found in the suspect’s car or along the pursuit route. And, though gun powder residue was found on the suspects and in their car, DeWine says that’s inconclusive because it could have come from being shot at close range.

A toxicology report does show the suspects had cocaine and other drugs in their systems. DeWine says his job is only to investigate the incident and not to recommend who, if anyone, should be punished. That is now the job of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who has the report and will decide whether or not to ask a grand jury to consider excessive use of force or criminal negligence charges.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says he still has faith in Police Chief Michael McGrath. And, Jackson says the state report is just one part of the city’s own investigation into the incident.

Mayor stands by police chief
“We’re taking the police protocols and tactics and overlay them with the facts in this case. That will include the B.C.I. report. And if we find that any officer or supervisor went outside the policies, there will be consequences.”

Jackson concedes that he was a bit surprised at DeWine’s emphasis on the police department’s procedures, but says he fully supports the attorney general’s efforts. For his part, Police Chief McGrath says there  was no systemic failure on Nov. 29th.

“No, because the policies and training are in place. Once the review is finished, we’ll determine if anyone violated the rules; they will be held accountable.”

Cleveland Police Union attorney Patrick DeAngelo says the officers involved were justified in the shooting because they believed they were in danger, and because the driver of the car tried to hit them. He says the focus should be shifted to the suspects who started the chase.

Police union attorney blames criminal behavior for shooting
“Whatever systemic failures that occurred are miniscule compared to conduct of individuals in our society that make police react in a certain way: people who use guns or cars to attack police officers.”

Following the release of the state report, neither the Cuyahoga County prosecutor nor the City of Cleveland could say when they will make decisions on charges or departmental sanctions.

Listener Comments:

this is another example of police officers not taking responsibility for their actions.They messed up man up and take your punishment.


Posted by: b (cleveland) on February 5, 2013 11:02AM
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