Investigator: Review of deadly chase faults officers, supervisors

6:12 PM, Apr 24, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- More than 100 officers and supervisors appear to have violated department policies during their pursuit of a vehicle last November that ended with the driver and passenger being killed in a barrage of gun fire, according to an internal review released today.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said he would be reviewing the investigation immediately and "officers in violation will be held accountable."  Discipline could range from reprimand to suspension to termination, the chief said.

Meanwhile, a criminal investigation into the 13 officers who fatally shot Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams at the conclusion of the chase is still in its preliminary stages, said a spokeswoman for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty. Those 13 officers have been on restricted duty since the shooting on Nov. 29.

McGrath pointed out that a majority of the officers on duty that night followed the rules and did not engage in the chase.

But an animation created by the department showed that officers from downtown and the near west side districts swarmed in like a moth to an open flame.  

Still, the chief insisted that the city's pursuit policies are good ones and that officers need to follow them.

"From the time they are in the academy through their tenure...they are instructed to check with their supervisors if they do not understand the policies and procedures," McGrath said.

Attorney General Mike DeWine, who conducted a criminal investigation into the shooting, said that the Cleveland Police Department needs to realize that the chase is a symptom of a larger illness.

"I hope the department recognizes that they have some problems," said DeWine. "And if they come back and say 'Oh, this was just a few officers who made some mistakes,' I think they're really missing the big picture and I would hope they would not reach that conclusion."

The internal review released Wednesday offered a moment-by-moment analysis of the 28-minute chase that began with an initial stop of Russell's vehicle near the downtown intersection of Rockwell Avenue and East 18th Street.

That stop provided the first policy violations, according to Commander James Chura, who led the internal review. Chura said the officer who initially pulled over Russell's vehicle failed to notify police dispatch of the stop or his pursuit of the vehicle after Russell sped away.

But it was far from the last, as 98 officers and 15 supervisors engaged in the high-speed pursuit that topped 125 mph at one point, Chura said. Sixty-two cars joined the chase at some point.

The internal review found that supervisors failed to take command of the chaotic chase and officers ignored orders to end the chase.

"We now have a better picture of what took place during the pursuit and Chief McGrath can proceed with determining whether individual officers will face discipline as a result of the actions they took that night," said Mayor Frank Jackson.


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