This phase of the chase and shooting investigation involved just the officers who fired into the car of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. The investigation of the wild pursuit by more than 60 police cruisers before the shooting earlier resulted in one supervisor being fired, two demotions and nine others disciplined.
The officers fired yesterday include Michael Brelo who was acquitted last year of voluntary manslaughter. Police commander James Chura led the internal investigation. He says three-year investigation took so long because of the size and complexity of the case.
Big incident equaled a long time to reach a conclusion
“Never in the history of Cleveland, or any other city for that matter, has there been an incident that’s covered the time, distance and number of individuals involved as this pursuit and use of deadly force. It took an investigation just as unprecedented to get to the truth. The list of forensic and investigative disciplines alone, as well as the number of agencies that that looked at all available evidence were vast.
"To reach the most accurate appraisal possible we had to wait on all those expert findings and put it all together into an understandable whole.”
Before the punishments were announced, Chura led a more than one-hour presentation that detailed the entire chase and shooting. The pursuit started in downtown after an officer believed shots were fired from the suspect’s car, as this radio transmission shows.
Many officers believed suspects were armed
“Blue Chevy, that car should be on Prospect eastbound, two black males, shots fired out of the vehicle.”
It turned out that the sounds from the car were actually backfires. As the chase intensified, some officers believed the suspects were still firing a gun, but others realized the sounds were backfires, but they failed to radio that information to other officers. Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association President Steve Loomis says grievances have been filed and the union will get the officers’ jobs back.He calls the firings a political move by City Hall following the acquittal of officer Brelo and no grand jury charges against officers involved in the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice.
Union president charges politics
“Some of the six who were fired have been accommodated, done a great job for three years. Now all of the sudden we’re firing them for placing themselves in a crossfire situation? Are you kidding me? Or is it because the politics is there and we got to do something? The mayor’s getting his butt kicked out in town so we’ve got to throw a couple cops under the bus. It’s not working anywhere across the country folks.”
And as he has in the past, Loomis blames Timothy Russell for his own death and the death of Malissa Williams.
“It’s tragic that it went down this way, but at the end of the day two people high on crack cocaine, high on marijuana, one them intoxicated, made the decision they made and we responded to them and we responded within our training.”
Mayor says opinion of firings will vary
Mayor Frank Jackson says he expected the appeals. He says he can’t speculate on how the punishments will viewed by the public.
“Even though we know grievances will be filed and we’ll have to deal with that whole process of appeal, but again I don’t want to be in the position of telling people how they should feel about this because there’s going to be different feelings all over the place whether they’re civilians or police officers, general public, or even among you I imagine it’s the same thing. So I just won’t get into that.’
Jackson expects the appeals process to take years. Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams says the city has adjusted its pursuit policy since the 2012 incident, and has improved its officer training. Much of the reform is part of the city consent decree with the Justice Department that Mayor Jackson initiated after the chase and shooting. Despite the changes, Chief Williams says he cannot guarantee the suspended officers will return to street duty.
No guarantee suspended officer will return to street duty
“There’s a lot to be done on our end as a division to get these officers to that level, and there’s a lot to be done by the officers themselves to ensure they have the right mentality and mindset to go back out there and do a job for the city. So it’s too early to say whether all 6 officers will be back out on the streets, I don’t know that.”
Williams says the Cleveland shooting and recent use of deadly force incidents around the country have lead all police departments to reevaluate how they do their jobs.