Cleveland police officials said Friday they’re disciplining 75 of officers for their involvement in
a police chase that ended in the shooting deathsof an unarmed man and woman, The Plain Dealer reports.
The pair were shot 137 times while in their car, parked in a middle school parking lot. No officers were injured in what police called a “full blown-out” firefight.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told reporters in February that “there is nothing normal about this case. … This is a tragedy.”
In November, about 60 police vehicles pursued the two suspects in a 25-minute chase spanning three cities. One suspect, 30-year-old Malissa Williams, was shot 24 times, and the other, 43-year-old Timothy Russell, was shot 23 times.
At the time, police said the suspects fired shots at them near Cleveland’s downtown Justice Center, according to The Plain Dealer. And a police dispatcher said that shots were fired at officers during the chase.
But after the chase ended in a gunfight near Heritage Middle School, police checked the car and realised neither Williams nor Russell was armed.
It isn’t clear whether a shot was actually fired at the officer who initiated the chase. Some speculate the Malibu driven by Russell may have backfired.
A report from the state’s attorney general shows the officers likely believe the suspects were armed based on erroneous information broadcast over the police radio. Officers told investigators they saw the suspects in the car with what looked like a gun.
Russell might have fled from police initially, fueling the massive chase, because he was high and driving on a suspended licence. Toxicology results show that Russell was under the influence of cocaine and alcohol at the time of his death. Williams was also high on cocaine and had marijuana in her system.
The officers being disciplined for violating police protocol won’t lose their jobs and did not partake in the gunfight at the end of the chase, but they did have a role in the pursuit. More than 100 police officers were involved in the chase in some way.
Nineteen of the 75 officers facing discipline for offenses ranging from engaging in a chase without permission to providing false information on police reports will have disciplinary hearings and might be suspended temporarily, according to The Plain Dealer.
In 2011, the newspaper published an investigation of reports of excessive use of nondeadly force by Cleveland police officers. The newspaper found that the police chief often overlooked inconsistencies with police officers’ stories when investigating use of force incidents.
Many of the officers faced accusations of brutality on the force.
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