DeWine: Deadly chase/shooting investigation shows 'systemic failure' in Cleveland Police Department
WATCH parts of the news conference below
Tina Kaufmann, newsnet5.com
12:05 PM, Feb 5, 2013
10:29 AM, Feb 6, 2013
CLEVELAND - The Ohio Attorney General's Office says their investigation into the Nov. 29 chase turned deadly shooting shows a "systemic failure" in the Cleveland Police Department.
Mike DeWine detailed the events of that fatal night, saying many police policies were discarded and the system failed everyone.
"We have violations all over the place, a lack of command and control," DeWine explained.
"By failing to provide adequate structure and support, the system failed the officers," he continued. "The number of vehicles involved contributed to crossfire that risked the lives of many, many officers. It's a miracle officers weren't killed."
According to Cleveland police policy, officers are not supposed to join a pursuit without permission from a supervisor. Of the 62 officers involved, 59 of them never asked permission to join the chase, DeWine said.
The investigation also revealed the pursuit lasted 22 minutes, reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, and that suspects Timothy Russell, who was intoxicated and had cocaine in his system, and Malissa Williams, who also had cocaine in her system and was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, never had a weapon.
DeWine's team searched the suspect's vehicle, surrounding areas of the chase along with the chase route. They also used a metal detector and searched for a weapon in storm drains and waterways, but no weapons were ever found.
We also learned that gunshot residue tests "reveal nothing" about whether Russell and Williams had and/or fired guns. It's because the residue found on them and the vehicle "likely" came from police who fired at them from close range.
Audible gunfire from the first shot to the last was 17.8 seconds, DeWine said.
Also detailed during the nearly two-hour news conference was some of the radio traffic that revealed one officer asking for stop sticks but a supervisor saying they didn't have any that worked -- their last pair "broke" three years ago. We also heard that officers who thought Russell's car may have backfired, "failed to radio that belief."
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said friendly-fire "tore up police vehicles." He also called it a miracle that police burials didn't follow the chase.
"What you have just heard is a tragedy. A tragedy for Russell, Williams and their families," DeWine said. "Make no mistake about it, this is also tough for each officer involved."
Many of the officers told investigators they were frightened and legitimately feared for their lives. The temperament at the scene was quiet and somber. After, officers were in a state of shock, looking at each other for injuries and bullet holes.
Officer Michael Brelo, according to his account, climbed onto the trunk and then the top of a patrol car and reloaded his gun, firing 49 rounds. An Iraq war veteran, the officer said he saw "the suspects moving and I could not understand why they are still moving, shooting at us. Even through Iraq, I never fired my weapon. I never have been so afraid in my life."
Normally, the AG's investigation isn't made public and is given to the prosecuting attorney. "But there was nothing normal about this case," DeWine said.
McGinty will now look at the 290-page report and present the findings to a grand jury for possible charges, noting it "will take time" to go through the documents.
DeWine's office posted all of the documents related to this case online, which includes interview transcripts, diagrams and other information gathered during the investigation. Check out the files here: http://on.wews.com/XlTz5z