City of Cleveland: Officers violated policy when they fired guns in deadly Nov. 2012 police chase

CLEVELAND - Thirteen Cleveland police officers who fired a total of 137 shots during a high-speed car chase ending in the deaths of two unarmed black people could lose their jobs.

The City of Cleveland announced Thursday that Michael McGrath, the Director of Public Safety, found cause to bring about administrative charges against each of the officers.

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Disciplinary hearings are scheduled for early September.

The discipline could range from a 10-day suspension to termination. 

According to the charging letters released Thursday, all officers fired their guns in a way that was in violation of the procedures of the Cleveland Division of Police and the Department of Public Safety.

Ten of the officers are accused of contributing to a crossfire scenario, 10 officers engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, four operated zone cars at excessive speeds considering the conditions, 10 left the city boundary without permission and nine failed to notify communications of participation in the chase, according to the documents.

PATROL OFFICER PAUL BOX

Patrol officer Paul Box is facing administrative charges for engaging in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, leaving the city boundary without permission and failing to notify communications of participation in the chase. The charging document also states Box delivered a round into the suspects' vehicle even though there were officers behind, beside and in front of the car.

"Consequently, your actions in the school lot contributed to what devolved into a cross fire scenario," the report states. 

PATROL OFFICER MICHAEL BRELO

Patrol officer Michael Brelo engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission, operated a zone car at excessive speeds and used force contrary to Cleveland Division of Police policy during the 2012 chase, according to the charging letter.

It reads: You violated divisional training protocol by leaving the cover of your zone car, firing your service weapon while running out in the open without consideration of backdrop then getting on top of zone car 238 where you fired an unknown amount of rounds into an occupied vehicle.

DETECTIVE MICHAEL DEMCHAK

The city found that Michael Demchak failed to notify communications of participation in the chase and used deadly force in a way that was contrary to police policy. The document states that Demchak shot four times from the south side of the vehicle even though he saw officers on the northwest side, creating a crossfire scenario.

PATROL OFFICER RANDY PATRICK

Patrol officer Randy Patrick engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission and failed to notify communications of participation in the chase, the letter states. According to the document, Patrick also fired his weapon using deadly force in the proximity of other officers, contributing to a crossfire situation.

DETECTIVE ERIN O'DONNELL

Detective Erin O'Donnell failed to notify communications of participation in the 2012 chase and did not provide BCI investigators with full information regarding the position of other officers, according to her letter. She also obtained unauthorized photos that were not initially submitted for evidence, the letter states.

The city found that O'Donnell fired her gun 12 times—using deadly force—in the proximity of other officers, contributing to a crossfire scenario. 

PATROL OFFICER CYNTHIA MOORE

The director of public safety found that patrol officer Cynthia Moore engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission and participated in the operation of a zone car at excessive speeds. According to the letter, Moore fired her weapon at the driver because of a perceived threat inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

It reads: Those actions, based on your perception at the time, did not thoroughly account for officers behind the subject vehicle when you fired and consequently contributed to a crossfire scenario.

PATROL OFFICER MICHAEL FARLEY

Patrol officer Michael Farley is accused of engaging in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, leaving the city boundary without permission and failing to notify communications of participation in the chase. The letter states Farley was actually in the district working out on a lunch break before eventually engaging in the pursuit and, ultimately, the deadly shooting. 

It reads: You state despite not having a clear view of the subjects, you fired in the general direction of the subject vehicle in conditions you described as poorly lit and obstructed by numerous police overhead lights. You also state you lost contact with your rookie while taking these actions.

DETECTIVE CHRISTOPHER EREG

The city found that detective Christopher Ereg failed to notify communications of participation in the 2012 chase, took two photos that were not submitted as evidence and did not have his portable radio on hand. The letter also states that Ereg participated in a crossfire situation when he fired six times at the vehicle. 

It reads: In the BCI interview you stated you exited your zone car because you didn't want to get hit with a crossfire, but you still moved into crossfire instead of taking cover. You also stated other members moved in and out of your sight picture while you took aim to fire at the subjects.

PATROL OFFICER WILFREDO DIAZ

Patrol officer Wilfredo Diaz engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission and participated in the operation of a zone car at excessive speeds, the letter states. Diaz is also accused of participating in unsafe vehicle operations when he exited the car while it was still in drive, allowing it to roll unattended until his partner was able to bring it to a stop.

It reads: You state you fired and are not sure what your rounds hit, but as the vehicle moved toward you, after firing initially, you state you fired your service weapon at the moving vehicle which is prohibited when other means were initially availably if you had stayed in your vehicle for cover.

PATROL OFFICER SCOTT SISTEK

According to the charging letter of Scott Sistek, the patrol officer engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission and participated in the operation of a zone car at excessive speeds. The letter states that Sistek got out of his car after hearing over the radio that shots had been fired. He told investigators that, fearing for his life, he ran backward and fired an unknown number of shots, one-handed toward the subject's car.

It reads: You state you were aware that officers were downrange. Therefore, despite your perception, several officers who were behind the subject vehicle reported during interviews that bullets were flying passed them. Consequently, your actions contributed to a crossfire scenario.

DETECTIVE MICHAEL RINKUS

Detective Michael Rinkus engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission and failed to notify communications of participation in the chase, his document states. According to his letter, when Rinkus fired his gun at the rear window of the subject's car, he failed to account for the officers in front or beside the vehicle, thus contributing to a crossfire situation. 

DETECTIVE WILLIAM SALUPO JR.

The city found that detective William Salupo Jr. engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission and failed to notify communications of participation in the chase. According to the letter, Salupo fired his weapon at the driver's headrest while running, contributing to a crossfire situation with other officers. He told investigators he fired because he believed the suspects hit officer Sistek with their vehicle.

PATROL OFFICER BRIAN SABOLIK

Brian Sabolik engaged in a pursuit without permission from a supervisor, left the city boundary without permission and failed to notify communications of participation in the chase, according to his charging letter. The letter states that Sabolik initially fired twice at what he perceived to be a threat inside the subject vehicle but then stopped because his sight picture was blocked by an officer standing on the hood of the car.

His letter also mentions an incident in April of 2013 in which he failed to call communications to request a supervisor to respond to the scene of a crash in which he was involved. At that time, he was found to be operating the car without proof of financial responsibility. 

BACKGROUND

On Nov. 29, 2012, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were killed when the officers fired shots into Russell’s Chevy Malibu after a 23-minute high speed chase. It ended with the shooting in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland.

Earlier this year, one of the officers, Michael Brelo, was acquitted on voluntary manslaughter charges in connection with the case.

Five CPD supervisors currently face dereliction of duty charges for their roles in the chase.

The officers facing administrative charges were provided notice of disciplinary hearings in writing. They will be allowed union representation at their hearings. 

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