Cleveland officials have identified 75 city police officers who’ll face consequences for their roles in last November’s pursuit of a motorist and his passenger, which ended in a volley of gunfire that left both dead. Ideastream’s Brian Bull reports.
At the end of the November 29th chase, Cleveland police fired 137 rounds into Timothy Russell’s car, killing him and Malissa Williams. They were first thought to have shot at police near the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland, but were later found to be unarmed.
Officials now say they’ve singled out 75 officers for disciplinary action for their role in the chase -- not the shooting -- and out of those 75, 19 will be directly referred to the City Safety Director for disciplinary hearings.
Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath says offenses include disregarding orders to stop the pursuit and falsifying information in reports. He regards the entire incident as “unfortunate”, with many victims.
“We have two people who were fatally shot. We have their families. We have the community’s concerns. And then we have our police officers," said McGrath. "We have to worry about them. The officers involved not only in the deadly force incident, but the officers involved in the pursuit, and their families. This is a tragedy for everybody.”
But the head of the city’s police union says 75 is a high number of officers, and places the blame more with McGrath’s leadership. Jeff Follmer of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association also backs officers’ actions during the incident.
“It was a once in a lifetime chase," says Follmer. "The perception was that these were active shooters, and they’re still suspects. They still started downtown and they did not stop. And by their actions, by them almost running over people in the parking lot, lead to the officer’s actions.”
Meanwhile, Chief McGrath says hearings for the offending police officers will begin immediately.
The consequences will range from a written reprimand to suspension, but no firings.