137 bullets were fired in the schoolyard where a November 2012 chase ended with two dead suspects. The gunfire was all coming from weapons held by police officers. The dead men were unarmed.
Now the federal government is investigating if there might have been a violation of the Cleveland Police Department’s pursuit policies and their policies regarding the use of deadly force.
A total of six Cleveland Police officers were indicted Friday on charges stemming from the incident. Cuyohoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said that one officer, Michael Brelo, has been charged with two counts of manslaughter. Five of his supervisors have been charged with dereliction of duty for failure to control the chase.
Officer Brelo fired 49 shots, at least 15 of which were reportedly fired while he was standing on the hood of the dead men’s car and firing through the windshield. The two occupants were trapped inside and defenseless.
Prosecutor McGinty, in his comments, referenced a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that police are not allowed to fire upon suspects after a public safety threat no longer exists. Other officers involved in the chase ceased firing when the vehicles came to a stop.
He characterized Brelo’s actions saying, “This was now a stop-and-shoot, no longer a chase-and-shoot. The law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot.”
The driver, Timothy Russell was reportedly shot 23 times and his passenger, Malissa Williams was shot 24 times.
The chase started at the police and courts complex, when an officer thought that he heard gunfire coming from a speeding vehicle and began his pursuit. It is unknown why Russell did not pull over.
A total of 60 police cruisers were involved in the chase which covered more than 20 miles and lasted in excess of 23 minutes. The pair led police through residential neighborhoods as well as Interstate 90, at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour. 104 of the 277 Cleveland Police officers on duty that night were in some way involved, with 12 firing shots.
Captain Brian Betley of the Fraternal Order of Police defended the actions of the officer as defensive, claiming the pair was trying to ram him.