Cleveland council questions police chief on pursuit policy following deadly chase turned shooting

CLEVELAND - Cleveland's police chief spoke to council members on their public safety committee on a range of issues. He began by letting them know what the BCI, East Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office is looking at while investigating the use of deadly force.

Chief Mike McGrath said components of the investigation include measuring the scene, radio transmissions and establishing a timeline and ballistic investigation among others. McGrath also said we should be able to know where an officer was standing when they fired their guns, killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams on the night of Nov. 29.

McGrath did not go into too much detail saying that the criminal investigation is not being handled by them. He did, however, go into detail regarding the police pursuit policy which states only two cars should be involved with a chase. But he disagrees with it.

"What the pursuit policy says is that where the pursuit starts, where it is initiated, that sector supervisor has control. He designates a primary and secondary car to back up. But there is also some wording in there regarding extenuating circumstances," McGrath explained in an impromptu news conference at city hall. "So until the investigation is complete by the administrative review committee, I don't currently know all the circumstances."

McGrath has not heard the audio tape from the night of the double shooting. He wants to stay away from the administrative committee in order to let them do their jobs without fear of his presence, he said. Although McGrath wants the committee to be wrapped up by the end of January, union representatives for the police patrolmen said no one has been interviewed.

McGrath said that should happen soon. "We didn't want to interview anyone while the criminal investigation was going on."

Councilman Zack Reed questioned why precinct commanders were on the nine member committee since some of the people they supervise we part of the chase.

"Bottom line, it was my decision and they are going to conduct a great administrative review with others on the committee," McGrath answered.

At the end of the hearing, members of Black on Black Crime, who stood for most of the hearing, chanted as they walked out, "137 shots. No justice, no peace." Art McKoy suggested there was another reason why council members did not bring up detailed information about the shooting investigation.

"Right now there is a cover-up!" he screamed in the hallway. "And we want justice."

This year police will receive pursuit training. It's something McGrath said was decided in October well before the chase began. The chief told council members that he was informed that the BCI investigation should be completed by the end of this month.

Councilman Kevin Conwell said when the committee meets again in two weeks they plan to call on newly elected Cuyahoga County Prosector Tim McGinty. He said McGinty can't comment on the case because he will be making a decision on it, but maybe they can talk about it "without talking about it," he said.

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