6 Cleveland police officers indicted by grand jury in 2012 deadly chase, shooting

1 officer charged with manslaughter

CLEVELAND - A grand jury indicted six Cleveland police officers Friday in connection to the Nov. 29, 2012 deadly police chase and shooting.

Officer Michael Brelo was indicted on two counts of manslaughter in regards to the shooting. This charge carries a mandatory sentence of three to 11 years in prison.

Brelo was immediately relieved of duty and is on un-paid administrative leave pending the adjudication of the charges.

Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, led Brelo and 12 other Cleveland police officers on a 23-minute high-speed chase. The chase ended with a shootout in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland.

Officer Brelo fired 49 of the 137 bullets that were fired into Russell's car by Cleveland police officers, more than any other officer involved.

Brelo fired 15 shots at the victims from close range while he was on the hood of Russell's car.

Investigators later determined Russell and Williams were unarmed.

The grand jury charged five supervisors with dereliction of duty. Those officers include: Sgt. Michael Donegan, Lt. Paul Wilson, and Sgts. Randolph Daley, Jason Edens and Patricia Coleman. These officers will be reassigned to restricted duty pending the adjudication of the criminal charges. 

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement Friday, these five supervisors "failed to do their duty to control and manage the chase, and thereby endangered both the public and the police officers they were supposed to be leading."

Russell and Williams' family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city on the one-year anniversary of the incident, alleging the officers used excessive force.

Cleveland Public Safety Director Michael McGrath has said the city will conduct its own review of the shooting after the grand jury finishes its investigation.

The department’s Critical Incident Review Committee finished its review of the chase last April leading to disciplinary action against the majority of the 104 officers who were involved in the incident.

In October, McGrath announced that 63 of the 104 officers involved in the chase would be suspended for one to 10 days for excessive speeding, insubordination and failure to get permission to join the pursuit.

The officers have appealed the discipline. City officials said arbitration hearings are scheduled for this spring.

McGrath has placed much of the blame for the incident on a handful of supervisors. In June 2013, he announced nine supervisors were suspended, two were demoted and one was fired following administrative hearings.

The one dozen supervisors have also appealed their discipline. Arbitration hearings for the supervisors wrapped up in May.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office conducted the official investigation into the chase.

Investigators found dozens of officers failed to follow to city policies, ignored their supervisors’ instructions and joined the chase without permission.

“We are dealing with a systemic failure in the Cleveland Police Department,” said DeWine during a Feb. 5, 2013 news conference.

The chase started near the Cuyahoga County Justice Center in downtown Cleveland. A Cleveland police officer thought he heard a gunshot coming from Russell's car. Investigators later determined the vehicle had backfired.  

Although many officers involved in the chase reported seeing Williams holding a gun, no weapons were found in Russell’s car or along the chase route.

The incident has led to changes in the department. Police Chief Calvin Williams announced a new chase policy March 6.

The policy review started before the chase. However,  Williams said,  "This new policy was put in place to make sure that events like (the chase) . . . don't happen again in the city."

The policy prohibits officers from joining a chase without permission and designates a controlling supervisor and scene supervisor to direct  vehicle pursuits.

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge released the following statement Friday regarding the decision of the grand jury.

“Our community was deeply shocked and saddened by the deaths of two unarmed residents that resulted from the barrage of gunfire directed at them by Cleveland Police Officers on the night of November 29, 2012. The presentation of evidence by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor to a grand jury relating to criminal charges is one step in a lengthy legal process.   In reviewing the evidence, the grand jury has done its job and rendered two felony counts of manslaughter against one Cleveland Police officer and misdemeanor charges of dereliction of duty against five police supervisors. No one is above the law. I look forward to the process in the courts continuing and upholding the principal that anyone who breaks the law will be held accountable,” said Congresswoman Fudge.

“Further, the U.S. Department of Justice review requested by my office  of the Cleveland Division of Police use of deadly force and pursuit policies is ongoing.  Our community has been patient. Some changes have already been implemented but clearly, more must also be done administratively to ensure that another tragic incident such as this will never occur again.”

 

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