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Crime and Courts


Six Cleveland police officers are indicted in killing of an unarmed couple
Cuyahoga County prosecutor says the actions of the officers in endangered citizens and each other
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
 
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty announces announces the charges following a nine-month investigation.
Courtesy of KEVIN NIEDERMIER
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In The Region:
A Cleveland police officer has been indicted on manslaughter charges and five police supervisors are facing misdemeanors. On Friday a Cuyahoga County grand jury leveled the charges following a nine-month investigation into the massive November 2012 police chase that ended with two unarmed suspects being shot to death. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports on the long awaited indictments.
LISTEN: Prosecutor says officers' actions were unjustified

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Following the high speed chase that involved about 60 Cleveland police cruisers and more than a third of the police force, 13 officers fired 137 shots into the disabled car occupied by Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty says the grand jury indicted officer Michael Brelo with two counts of voluntary manslaughter, which are first-degree felonies.

Brelo accused of firing repeatedly while standing on Russell's car
“After more than 100 shots were fired a Mr. Russell’s car and its occupants, it was trapped by police officers in a narrow lane and came to a complete stop in that school yard. All officers at the scene saw fit to cease fire. Then officer Brelo started shooting again and fired at least 15 shots, including fatal shots, down into the windshield into the victims at close range as he stood on the hood of Mr. Russell’s car.”

The U.S. Supreme court ruled this week in a Tennessee case that officers can use excessive force in an active chase while residents are in danger.  But, officers cannot start shooting again after the vehicle has been stopped and cannot move. McGinty says that's what happened with Brelo.

The other 12 officers involved in the Cleveland shooting will now face discipline following a city administration review of their actions.

After the shooting, about 75 officers and supervisors were punished by the city for their roles in the chase. That included suspensions, demotions and one firing. But McGinty says each of five supervisors on duty that night now face criminal dereliction of duty charges as well.

Endangering the public
“These supervisors failed to do their duty to control and manage the chase, thereby endangering the public and the police officers they were supposed to be leading. These supervisors actively --and they were actively involved in this chase -- allowed a disturbed, petty criminal to take charge of and lead a large portion of the Cleveland police force on duty that evening.”

The Cleveland police union says the chase and shooting was justified because officers thought they heard a shot from the suspects’ car when the chase started. McGinty said neither Williams nor Russell were armed.

Next steps
Following the indictments, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams described what those officers face now.

“First, officer Brelo will be suspended without pay pending the adjudication of the criminal charges against him. The other supervisors involved ... will be placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of their criminal charges.’

Williams said since the chase, the department has improved its officer training, and will issue each officer video cameras to be worn on their uniforms to record their actions. An earlier investigation into the chase by the Ohio Attorney General’s office called the event a "systemic failure" of the entire police department. The U.S. Justice Department is also conducting an investigation into the Cleveland’s use of deadly force.




The night of Nov. 29, 2012, a massive police chase ended with Cleveland police firing nearly 140 bullets and two people dead. Here's an outline of the case :

What happened:

Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, flee a downtown Cleveland traffic stop. More than 100 police officers participate in the subsequent 25-minute chase, which ends in an East Cleveland neighborhood when 13 officers fire 137 shots, killing both Russell and Williams.

Despite an early report of shots fired, there is no evidence Russell or Williams had a gun; the sound may have been a backfire of their car. Officers say the pair still used deadly force in trying to run them down, and the shooting was justified.

Consequences to date:

  • After a review, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine declares the incident a sign of “systemic failure” in the Cleveland Police Department, a charge the city rejects.
  • Separately, the city disciplines 12 supervisors, including firing one and demoting two. It concludes 75 patrol officers broke the rules in the pursuit; 63 were suspended for excessive speeding and failing to get permission to join the chase.
  • The families of Russell and Williams are suing the city.
  • The U.S. Justice Department continues to conduct a civil rights investigation.

Related WKSU Stories

Cleveland asks for calm after officers are indicted
Friday, May 30, 2014

State shooting investigation says Cleveland's police failure was 'systemic'
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cleveland Patrolman's Association says evidence will exonerate officers
Saturday, May 31, 2014

Public questions about police shooting
Friday, December 7, 2012

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