Police face discipline in deadly Ohio police chase
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
A dozen Cleveland police supervisors face internal discipline charges stemming from a chase that saw officers fire 137 shots and kill a fleeing driver and his passenger, the city’s police chief said Tuesday.
The supervisors failed to take control of the 19-mile chase that began outside police headquarters and wound through neighborhoods before ending in a barrage of gunfire, said Chief Michael McGrath.
An internal police review showed both officers and supervisors broke department policies. The chief said a review is continuing into whether any officers will be disciplined.
The supervisors facing internal discipline are a police captain, a lieutenant and 10 sergeants. They could be demoted, suspended or fired following hearings scheduled for May.
The county prosecutor is conducting a separate grand jury investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing. The 13 officers who fired their weapons during the chase weren’t included in the internal review but will face one after the grand jury investigation.
The deadly chase prompted some community leaders to say the shootings were racially motivated. The police union said the shootings were justified because the driver tried to ram an officer.
Some officers also thought the two were armed and some told state investigators they were frightened and feared for their lives.
Both the driver, Timothy Russell, 43, and his passenger, Malissa Williams, 30, had cocaine in their systems and criminal records. But no weapon or shells were found in their car.
Russell was shot 23 times and Williams 24 after a half-hour pursuit.
The chase began with a report of gunfire outside police headquarters, but it wasn’t clear why Russell didn’t stop. He had fled an earlier traffic stop.
Lt. Brian Betley, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Cleveland, would not comment directly on the discipline charges. He said he is reviewing the allegations along with the union’s attorney.
In a wide-ranging review by state agents, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in February the chase resulted from leadership failures. “Command failed, communications failed, the system failed,” DeWine said.
The state report noted Russell was legally drunk when he became involved in the chase, and he and Williams also tested positive for cocaine. DeWine said they likely had been smoking crack.
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