LOCAL: Deadly Force Probe Could Take Months

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CLEVELAND – Mayor Frank Jackson expects the use of deadly force and high-speed chase investigation to take months, while noting if protocol was followed he will fully support officers. But if they violated the rules, there will be consequences.

The investigation into if the shooting was justified is being handled by East Cleveland police, because the high-speed chase turned deadly shooting happened in their jurisdiction.

“As a city, we have worked hard over the past seven years I’ve been mayor to have trust and mutual respect between police officers and the community,” said Jackson. “We put policies in place for our officers and supervisors to make tough decisions.”

Looking into if the officers followed department policies and procedures will be handled by Cleveland Police Department’s administrative review process.

Jackson is asking CPD to look at specifics:

- supervision of pursuit

- how long it lasted

- the number of officers involved in the final incident

- whether or not proper tactics were used that could have prevented the use of deadly force

“If they followed policies and procedures, they have our full support,” explained Jackson. “If they (violated them), there will be consequences…and we will see what administrative actions we can take.”

It’s expected both investigations will take several months, if not a year, to complete.

Meanwhile, police continue searching for shell casings along the shoreway. No gun was found inside the suspects’ car involved.

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said there was a reason searching the chase route began over the weekend.

“We had to wait for (East Cleveland police) to get up to speed. We wanted to listen to all audio tapes carefully to see if we could hear if something was thrown from the vehicle. We started looking Saturday and continued today.”

Radio tapes from the ordeal are expected to be released no later than Tuesday morning.

Another question that remains unanswered is if Cleveland officers can join a pursuit without a supervisor’s permission, something McGrath said will be looked at during the administrative review. The policy is updated every other year.

Jackson noted it “would serve us well to have dash cams in all vehicles,” but said it hasn’t happened due to budgetary issues. He feels that would’ve helped them better piece together the chase, why it lasted 22 minutes and why so many rounds were fired after.

“We recognize there’s a problem. As we evaluate what we could have done better, of course, that will be one of the things we will be looking at,” explained Jackson. He also mentioned equipping officers with body cameras, creating a pilot program.

Of the known 13 officers involved, 12 which were white and one who was Hispanic, none have been interviewed yet, but all are due back to work Tuesday. They’ll be placed in a wellness program on restricted duty status for the net six months, if not longer.

WEB EXTRA: Click on the video player above to watch the unedited video as NewsChannel5 Multimedia Journalist Mike Vielhaber rode along with police during the chase.

“There are two very sensitive investigations,” noted Jackson.

“Why were 137 shots fired? Why did the pursuit take 22 minutes? I don’t have the answers. We have to answer them and we will,” said McGrath, who’s  confident his command structure currently in place works effectively.

“It’s not that we don’t have information. We just can’t draw conclusions right now,” Jackson said. “Every day that there’s a report of someone getting killed, whether it’s this incident or another, and the director calls me, it bothers me. This is our town, our stewardship. The fact is, it happened…We have facts and information, but it’s far too early to draw conclusions from that…”

A Cleveland police officer said he heard a shot fired from a vehicle westbound on St. Clair Avenue. McGrath said people inside the Justice Center also thought it was a shot fired, including a security guard who heard “a loud shot and ducked down behind glass. That initiated this incident.”

Another question still being determined is why the people inside the vehicle were running from police.

“That hasn’t been determined, but there was a reason and that’s where the criminal investigation will make a determination why he didn’t stop,” McGrath said.

Normal protocol states a department can release the names of officers involved in a deadly shooting 48 hours after the incident. “We aren’t conducting the criminal investigation so that question will have to be answered by East Cleveland police.”

The chase ended with two police cars and the suspects’ car colliding head-on. Shots were then fired at the car behind Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland, killing both people inside, a 30-year-old homeless woman, Malissa Williams, and 42-year-old Timothy Russell.

Article Courtesy of WEWS NewsChannel 5

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