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CPD Officers Involved In "137 Shots" Case Disciplined

A model recreation of the incident at today's presentation (pic from WKYC feed)
A model recreation of the incident at today's presentation (pic from WKYC feed)

By ideastream’s Brian Bull

After a three year investigation by a critical incident review committee, Cleveland City officials have moved to discipline 12 out of 13 police officers involved in the “137 Shots” case that took place on November 29, 2012.

Among the six officers fired was Michael Brelo.   He was acquitted of manslaughter charges last spring for his actions in the chase and shootout that killed Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams.   Neither was armed.

Public Safety Officer Mike McGrath says the other six will be suspended, with the potential to return to the streets after being retrained. 

Another officer retired late last year.

At a presentation today, McGrath, and Police Commander James Chura – chairman of the Critical Incident Review Committee – walked through the events leading up to the chase, including police radio recordings and a recreation of the final confrontation in an East Cleveland middle school parking lot where Russell and Williams died in a hail of gunfire.  

Chura said no piece of evidence was left unconsidered, in a complex scenario where dozens of officers and supervisors became engaged in the chase.  Among the risks reviewed were officers joining the pursuit without permission and putting themselves and others in a dangerous crossfire situation as dozens of shots were fired into Russell’s 1979 Chevy Malibu. 

Mayor Frank Jackson defended the review process as a fair and thorough example of due process, and said it wasn’t up to him to decide how people should feel about the disciplinary decisions. 

The mayor also acknowledged that there will likely be grievances filed, as the disciplined officers may appeal the city’s actions. 

The chase began in downtown Cleveland when several officers thought shots had been fired from the direction of Russell’s vehicle. During the pursuit, some officers also said they thought they saw the driver and passenger pointing guns.  No sign of any weapons were ever found.

The incident spurred a U.S. Department of Justice to probe the matter, leading to a consent decree agreement last year that seeks to reform the Cleveland Police Department’s training and protocols.