NewsChannel5 Investigators have learned the City of Cleveland has hired an outside law firm to represent the city and 13 officers named in a federal lawsuit filed by the family members of the victims of the deadly Nov. 2012 police chase and shooting.
CLEVELAND - The city of Cleveland said Tuesday the scope of the internal investigation into a deadly police chase that ended with two suspects shot dead includes more information than first thought, requiring more time than first thought.
The city held a news conference Tuesday morning to give a status update on the administrative aspect of the Nov. 29 chase. Mayor Frank Jackson, Safety Director Martin Flask and Chief Michael McGrath all spoke to the media about where the case stands.
The department's own investigation was expected to be wrapped up by the end of January, but the city said it needs more time to dive through all information collected in the case.
Officers shot and killed driver 43-year-old Timothy Russell and his 30-year-old passenger, Malissa Williams, after they led police on a 22-minute chase. It started when a second district officer said a gunshot was fire from their car as they drove past police headquarters downtown.
The pursuit ended in behind a middle school in East Cleveland after officers said the suspect vehicle was trying to ram a police cruiser. Thirteen officers fired 137 shots, striking Russell 23 times and Williams 24 times.
Police said no gun was found in the suspect vehicle.
Mayor Jackson said a committee has been reviewing the information to see if all of the department's policies and procedures were followed by those involved with the chase.
That committee, according to McGrath, has driven the chase route four times since the night of the incident – the most recent time at night – and they have not discovered anything new along the route.
Chief Michael McGrath revealed that 63 police vehicles from the Cleveland Division of Police were involved in the chase to some extent. Some units may have been blocking intersections, while others were directly involved in the chase.
McGrath said he believes the number of cars actually pursuing the suspect vehicle throughout the chase was about 50. That number fluctuated as the chase moved between police districts. The chase started off with just six vehicles.
According to Flask, 115 personnel members – including patrol officers, dispatchers, etc. – will need to be interviewed as a part of the department's investigation. He said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Investigation has already conducted 91 interviews in the case.
The department's investigation is happening along side and in cooperation with BCI, Flask said, but they are separate investigations and both are continuing.
Mayor Jackson said the city does not know what information BCI has with regard to the information, but everyone is fully cooperating with them. He said BCI has requested copies of the department's chase and deadly force policies.
The department has also pulled all of the data from the Automatic Vehicle Locator devices installed on 94 of the police vehicles on duty that night (13 did not have an AVL installed) – and that information has been handed over to the chief. All of the radio traffic from that night has been pinpointed to individuals and has been transcribed.
McGrath said the department is 99 percent finished in the logistical gathering of information in the investigation, and it will be up to the committee to piece it together to determine if the department's policies and procedures were followed.
The 13 officers who were initially named as firing shots in the incident were placed on desk duty, where they remain, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Last week, police confirmed approximately 61 officers in all were involved in the chase.
Also, the toxicology report issued from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office showed cocaine was found in both Russell and Williams' systems.
Keep checking newsnet5.com for more information on this developing story.
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