A week after a police chase ended the lives of two suspects in a hail of gunfire, many Cleveland residents remain upset at what they consider an extraordinary show of deadly force. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and police chief Michael McGrath addressed their questions last night at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church on the city's east side. ideastream's Nick Castele was there.
Mayor Frank Jackson and police chief Michael McGrath didn't have much new information to offer on the police chase that ended when 13 officers fired 137 rounds at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, killing them both. But the mayor and police chief said they wanted to be transparent and answer questions from the community.
JACKSON: "Rest assured that what we know, we will tell you. There's nothing like the truth. Nothing like the truth."
Jackson then took questions. Some of the first to speak were the families of the two people killed. Michelle Russell, a relative of Timothy Russell, wanted to clarify whether any officers had been called off the chase, as a dispatch recording suggests..
RUSSELL: "Why could they hear the initial report to pursue the chase. They were all on the same radio wave at that point. But then when the call came in to stop, nobody seemed to be able to hear that."
McGrath said, to his knowledge, only some cars were called off the pursuit when the chase left their district.
Walter Jackson, the uncle of Malissa Williams, questioned if such a huge chase could have been proper protocol.
JACKSON: "137 shots being fired, I mean, come on. That's ridiculous."
Twelve of the 13 officers who fired shots were white, and one was Hispanic. Williams and Russell were both African American. Walter Jackson said he believed race had something to do with the killing.
JACKSON: "And a lot of people say, is this a black and white thing? To tell you the truth, yes it is. Yes it is. It's Rodney King. It's like Rodney King to the 30th power."
Police chief McGrath said it was too early to have answers to many of the questions asked. Such as why did the chase go on so long, and why were so many officers involved? McGrath said at least 30 police cars were at the scene at the end of the chase.
MCGRATH: "It is my responsibility to get you and everybody in this room and everybody in this community the answer to that question. And I'm telling you I will. I will, I will, I will. Why did they fire 137 shots? I don't know at this time. But I'll find that out."
McGrath has said that the chase began after officers at the Justice Center heard what they believed to be a gunshot coming from a car driven by Russell. Both Russell and Williams had criminal records - but so far, police have not found any weapon in the vehicle, or evidence that a shot was fired.
While the state attorney general's office is investigating whether the 13 officers should face criminal charges, the city is looking into whether they broke guidelines on high-speed chases or the use of deadly force.
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and other community groups have called for a federal review.