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Attorney General: No weapon found in deadly chase

10:25 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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RICHFIELD -- Attorney General Mike DeWine says no weapon was found in the car or along the chase route of a deadly police pursuit and shooting last November.

DeWine says gunshot residue found inside the suspects' car was inconclusive and all casings and rounds found inside the car matched those from officers' weapons involved in the shooting.

DeWine released the results of his office's investigation at a news conference at the BCI office in Richfield this morning.

Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams died in the Nov. 29 shooting in which 137 bullets were fired at their car. Investigators determined the shots were fired in two bursts that lasted a total of 17.8 seconds.

DeWine says his investigators found that of the 13 officers who fired shots that night each stated they felt they had no other choice and believed both they and their fellow officers' lives were in imminent danger. Other officers involved in the chase that did not fire their weapons told investigators they also believed deadly force was necessary.

DeWine's narrative of events pieced together by investigators describes a scene in which officers believed the suspects were armed based on earlier radio traffic transmissions. Officers also told investigators they thought they observed Russell and Williams reaching for something or pointing something at officers from inside the car.

A loud bang that witnesses heard at the start of the chase that was assumed to be a gunshot has been determined by forensic analysis of the suspects' car to have been a backfire.  A metallic object observed by some officers in the car and suspected to have been a gun, DeWine says has been determined to be a can of pop.

In nearly every case, the officers involved in the shooting underestimated the number of shots they fired that night. Additionally, investigators found that of the more than 60 vehicles involved in the pursuit, all but three were involved without the permission of a supervisor as required by Cleveland Department policy.

"What you just heard is a tragedy for Timothy Russell. A tragedy for Malissa Williams and a tragedy for their families," said Attorney General DeWine.

He says this chase could have ended without tragedy if Russell had simply stopped. "Perhaps the alcohol and drugs in his system may have impaired his judgment; we will never know."

DeWine says the chase and shooting was the result of a "systemic failure of the Cleveland Police Department. Command failed. Communication failed. The system failed," said DeWine.

He says the failure of the system created a cross-fire situation in which officers' lives were placed in jeopardy. "It's a miracle that many officers were not killed," said DeWine. "Officers misinterpreted facts. Failed to follow established rules. However by failing to provide the adequate structure and support, the system itself failed the officers."

DeWine's investigation has been turned over to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty to determine if any of the officers involved should face criminal charges.  The case will be given to a grand jury.


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