Investigator | Deadly chase probe winding down

CLEVELAND -- Monday's shake-up in the Cleveland Police Department occurs as two major investigations are underway into police misconduct.

One involves the deadly police chase from about 15 months ago, into which the U.S. Department of Justice continues to conduct a more sweeping investigation – one that could take up to another year to complete.

The other is an investigation by a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury. Some had expected that to wrap up in December, but it then was extended three months. By the end of this month, that decision could become public.

Defense lawyers say that it's always been difficult for police officers to get indicted for being involved in shootings. But attorney Terry Gilbert believes this might just be a case that will be different, since 13 officers fired a total of 137 bullets at Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell. Gilbert is representing Russell's family.

"It was clear that re-loading your clip three times and shooting into dead bodies is a bit over the top," Gilbert said. One officer is accused of shooting the two from the hood of the suspect's car.

Gilbert adds that Ohio law doesn't make it easy for a grand jury to indict officers involved in deadly shootings. He believes that if there are any charges, they are more likely to be misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide or dereliction of duty than of murder or manslaughter. He also knows there is a built-in sympathy factor working in police officers' favor.

"Anything that happens in the line of duty, in the heat of the moment, is not to be considered criminal," Gilbert says.

As the grand jury decides whether or not to indict any of the 13 officers, the Justice Department continues to review this shooting, as well as others in years past.

Those include three deadly shootings we profiled just last year. Grieving family members criticized police for using excessive force.

The federal government is trying to find out if this is symptomatic of a bigger problem in the Cleveland police department – one that begins with a lack of leadership or training.

If so, Mayor Frank Jackson's decision to promote the same chief who was in charge at the time of this deadly chase might end up looking highly questionable.

"It's a pattern of deliberate indifference to proper supervision and monitoring of the police department," Gilbert says.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment