Community seeks answers from Cleveland officials on deadly chase and shooting

CLEVELAND - In the basement of Abyssinia Baptist Church, city leaders listened as one by one residents and family members of those involved in last week's deadly police chase and shooting shouted out their questions, their comments and their frustrations.

"Your kid, your child or your son could have been in that car, put yourself in my shoes," said Walter Jackson, the uncle of Malissa Williams.

Williams, 30, was shot and killed along with Timothy Russell following a lengthy police chase that started downtown outside the Justice Center and ended in a hail of gunfire in East Cleveland.

The audience came seeking answers, the city promising answers.

"Why did they fire 137 shots?" asked Police Chief Mike McGrath. "I don't know at this time but I'll find that out."

"I'll tell everybody in this room, no matter what you say this evening or no matter what kind of questions you ask, I'm going to do my job and I'm going find out what happened on either side of the coin, either right or wrong. If the police were wrong, they were wrong. If the victims were wrong, they're wrong, but I'm going get you an answer and it's going to be true."

One of the questions asked was related to police dispatch tapes where officers are told to end the pursuit. The chief explained that dispatch was from one of the city's police districts not involved in the chase. Since the pursuit initiated in the second district, those officers handled the chase.

"Now, the pursuit went into the first district," the chief said. "Some of the first district cars got involved because it was in their district. After it left their district, the first district supervisor called off his cars and told his cars to return to his district."

Rewriting policies dealing with the police use of force was one of the first things Mayor Frank Jackson tackled after taking office in 2006.

"We had put things in place to ensure that things like this did not happen and it happened and we do not like it."

So separate from the East Cleveland criminal investigation, the mayor urged they will be conducting their own investigation to make sure procedures were followed.

"An officer may put themselves in a situation where they have to use deadly force and it maybe justified. Maybe because someone's going to run them down with a car, but tactics, as developed by the chief in the police protocol, says you should never put yourself in that situation where you have to use deadly force."

"So even if it's determined you are justified because your life was in danger, that don't mean that you're getting off Scott-free," said Jackson.

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