News

System failure cited in police shooting

COLUMBUS, Ohio – “The system failed everyone.” That is the terse assessment from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine after his office released its report into a deadly police-involved shooting in East Cleveland last November.

Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot to death after a 22-minute chase that began in downtown Cleveland.

“Policy, training, communications, and command have to be so strong and so ingrained to prevent subjective judgment from spiraling out of control.  The system has to take over and put on the brakes. On November 29, 2012, the system failed everyone,” DeWine said.

The report found neither suspect had a weapon or fired a gunshot, as officers believed when the chase started.

As many as 63 officers were involved in the 22-minute chase down Euclid Avenue that ended with officers firing 140 shots into the suspects’ car.

DeWine released findings from a two-month investigation into the shootings yesterday, adding that the suspects were partly responsible for what happened.

“This chase could have ended without tragic results if Timothy Russell had simply stopped the car in response to the police pursuit.  Perhaps the alcohol and cocaine in his system impaired his judgment.  We will never know,” DeWine said.

Police union leaders say the attorney general’s report confirms that their actions in the chase and shooting were justified.  Union attorney Pat D’Angelo says criminal actions by Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams left officers with no choice but to shoot.

The Cuyahoga County grand jury will review the attorney general’s report to decide if criminal charges will be filed against any of the officers involved.

Attorneys for the families of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams say they’re prepared to take the city of Cleveland to court with wrongful death lawsuits.

Cleveland city officials say their investigation into the incident will determine whether officers followed proper procedures.  Police Chief Michael McGrath says it’s too early to tell if officers will be disciplined.

McGrath denied the Ohio attorney general’s claims of a, quote, “systemic failure” in the police department, saying officers and dispatchers are properly trained.

The episode began when Russell’s car drove past the city’s Justice Center on St. Clair Avenue, traveling about 66 miles per hour.

Officers standing outside the building claimed they heard a loud bang from the vehicle, believed to be a gunshot directed towards them. O

When Russell and Williams were spotted on the Detroit/Superior Bridge, the car fled, touching off the chase, which the report says lasted approximately 25 minutes, reportedly reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour and involving at least 62 police vehicles from the Cleveland Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers and three other agencies.

The chase finally ended in a school parking lot in East Cleveland.

When Russell’s car tried to get away, he drove toward a police car, hitting the open passenger’s door.

Believing his partner had been run over by Russell, one officer opened fire and others apparently joined in, telling investigators they believed a shootout was taking place between officers and the occupants of the car.

In the course of approximately 17.8 seconds, 13 officers fired about 140 rounds into Russell’s car, include one officer who fired 49 times.

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