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Courts and Crime

'Systemic failure' by Cleveland police in the fatal shooting
Ohio's AG concludes command and control broke down in pursuit and shooting of an apparently unarmed couple

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
In The Region:

Ohio’s Attorney General says Cleveland’s police department suffered “systemic failure” in the high-speed chase and deadly shooting of two people on Nov. 29.

Mike DeWine outlined the results of the investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation at a press conference in Richfield this morning. He says police disregarded policies when more than 60 of them pursued Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell for 22 minutes from downtown Cleveland to East Cleveland before shooting them to death after they hit a dead-end street.

Dewine says 59 of the 62 officers who joined the chase never asked permission.

"We have violations all over the place, a lack of command and control," DeWine said.

He maintained that the number of cruisers involved contributed to the confusion, and said, “It's a miracle officers weren't killed."

The chase began when an officer downtown reported he’d heard shots apparently coming from Russell’s car. But Dewine says his investigators found no sign of a weapon when they searched the vehicle, the route of the chase and even used a metal detector to search storm sewers.

Gunshot residue on the victims likely came from the more than 130 bullets police fired at the couple, he said.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has called a press conference for 1 p.m. to respond to the Attorney General’s report.



Statements from Attorney General Mike DeWine:

  • "This is a tragedy – a tragedy for Timothy Russell, a tragedy for Malissa Williams, and a tragedy for their families.  This has also been very tough for each of the law enforcement officers involved.
  • "To state the obvious, this chase could have ended without tragic results if Timothy Russell had simply stopped the car in response to the police pursuit.  Perhaps the alcohol and cocaine in his system impaired his judgment.  We will never know."  
  • "Police officers have a very difficult job.  They must make life and death decisions in a split second based on whatever information they have in that moment.  In a situation like this, they are under tremendous stress.  But, when you have an emergency, like what happened that night, the system has to be strong enough to override subjective decisions made by individuals who are under that extreme stress.  
  • "Policy, training, communications, and command have to be so strong and so ingrained to prevent subjective judgment from spiraling out of control.  The system has to take over and put on the brakes.   
  • "On November 29, 2012, the system failed everyone."   

Related Links & Resources
Here's the link to the Ohio attorney general's report on the Cleveland shooting

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