Ohio AG: System failure led to deadly police chase

Leadership and communications failures led to the chaotic police chase in Cleveland last fall than ended with 13 officers firing 137 rounds and killing two people who were likely unarmed, Ohio's attorney general said Tuesday in reporting the results of an exhaustive investigation.
Associated Press
Feb 6, 2013

"It was total lack of control," Attorney General Mike DeWine said during a news conference at the state crime laboratory.

He turned over the report to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who said he would take the case to a grand jury to determine if any of the officers should face criminal charges.

Officials did not announce a timeframe for the grand jury review and McGinty said he hadn't dawn any conclusions about criminal charges.

The report did not assign blame on any of the officers, but said "systemic failures" in the Cleveland police department led to the escalation of the Nov. 29 chase and the fatal shootings of the car's driver, Timothy Russell, 43, and his 30-year-old passenger Malissa Williams.

"Command failed, communications failed, the system failed," DeWine said.

Patrick D'Angelo, the police union leader, watched the news conference and said the shooting would be found to be justified. The chase reflects the risks officers face daily, he said.

"The driver of the car tried to run over numerous police officers, he intentionally rammed other patrol cars and officers were in fear of their life and they did what they were trained to do," D'Angelo said.

A key question remained unanswered: did the two people fleeing in the car have a weapon that was tossed out during the chase? DeWine said gunpowder residue tests on the two and their vehicle showed traces of gunpowder but it wasn't conclusive whether they had been armed or the residue, as was possible, came from the extensive gunfire.

Some community leaders called the shootings racially motivated, since Russell and Williams were black, but D'Angelo said race wasn't a factor in the chase.

DeWine described a confusing scene where dozens of police cruisers from multiple jurisdictions became involved in the chase without permission from superiors and little direction after some officers thought someone from the car had fired shots.

Then, at the end of the chase, officers positioned on both sides of the suspect's car began firing, the report said. The crossfire led other officers to believe they were involved in a shootout with the two people in the car.

Many of the officers told investigators they were frightened and legitimately feared for their lives.

Officer Michael Brelo, according to his account, climbed onto the trunk and then the top of a patrol car and reloaded his gun, firing 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."

Another officer, David Siefer, radioed fellow officers to be careful because the passenger was armed.

"He's pointing the gun. He's pointing the gun out the back window. Heads up. Heads up. Passenger is pointing a gun out the back window. Everybody be careful," Siefer said.

Siefer later told investigators he didn't actually see a gun. "Despite not actually seeing a gun, Siefer broadcast on the radio that the passenger has just pointed a gun out the rear window," the report said

Mayor Michael Frank Jackson, who has said officers who violated department rules in the chase would be disciplined, was preparing to respond to the report later in the day.

The chase involving police, sheriff's deputies and state troopers went through residential neighborhoods and onto a freeway before ending with the car blocked in at the rear of a school in neighboring East Cleveland. It reached 100 mph and lasted 25 miles and 22 minutes.

The report noted that Russell was legally drunk when he became involved in the chase, and he and Williams also tested positive for cocaine. DeWine said they likely had been smoking crack. It wasn't clear why Russell didn't stop for police. He had fled earlier fled a separate traffic stop.

 

Comments

Trustafarian

So it was "system failure" that led to the death of those two upstanding citizens. I would have bet money that smoking crack, driving drunk, failing to pull over then leading the police on a 90mph chase through the city was the root cause of their deaths. Now I'm glad I didn't bet.

Commenter

LOL, I'd have lost that bet too....

deertracker

The press conference was very interesting yesterday. Really made the CPD look bad. There's plenty of fault to go around but the officers were definitely Keystone cops that night. They were being shot at but only by their co-workers. Does it really take over 50 officers to arrest two people? 137 shots is alot for any arrest. The AG said it was a miracle alot of cops did not kill each other that night. Cleveland's finest?

Julie R.

137 shots? It's a real miracle that innocent bystanders weren't killed.

deertracker

The AG said that too!

arnmcrmn

1 shot.....137 shots....does it really matter. It only takes one to die. Just to think, if they pulled over, they would still be alive and likely not in jail.

Commenter

That's very true, but 137 is a little excessive and the chances of getting hit by 1 are greater if you shoot 137 times rather than just 1 time.
But they could have just pulled over. That's very true.

happyfeet64

137 shots against 2 people a chase that took how long? 62 cars for a chase? They had gun residue on them because the cops were so close when they discharged their weapons? The AG says it was a system failure? Each and every police officer should be held accountable. Why is these two lives any less than anyone else on this planet? That's like saying the women Sowell raped, tortured and killed deserved what they got. BS.

Factitious

This is an incidence of mob psychology, in the clinical sense (or "mob mentality," or "crowd psychology," if you will.)

"Mob mentality refers to the behavioral tendency of people (or other social animals) to act in unison with the group of which they are a part. This is an evolutionary adaptation that provides the mechanism for collective intelligence, but also explains how morally reprehensible consensus can form..."

(excerpted from the following)
http://blogs.cornell.edu/info204...

A uniform and a badge does not make one immune.

Cops are trained to recognize this phenomenon when dealing with crowds. They need training in recognizing it in themselves.

Most of the problems with cops happen when they act on impulse rather than according to the rules. Cops are under frequent and intense stress, so this sort of self-discipline is much more difficult for them than for most people, but because they wield so much power, it is imperative that they can restrain themselves. We need to look at the training they get.

See also "groupthink" and "herd mentality."

luvblues2

All of those lit up flashing lights and sirens get the adrenaline pumping even more. Tell me that isn't so and I'll take you to a cop car and let you flip them on sitting still in a parking lot.

Kimo

One of these days there will be a story about three or four CCW's that opened fire in a restaurant. Just let someone pull a gun and the carnage will start.........
.

luvblues2

Wrong thread, Kimo. No CCWs involved here.

Speakezy

It was a systemic failure for the dumb A$$ crack infested driver to not stop like he should have!

KURTje

Here is a great place for combat troopers to be employed. While being in L.E. can be daunting at times, experience 1rst hand with prior human carnage strange as it seems would be a valuable asset for civilian interaction. Attitudes derived from battle differ than most non-warrior L.E. officers.

Kimo

Let me put in another way..... people with guns can be like barking dogs. All it takes is one bark/shot and the rest bark/shoot. Kinda like these cops...

With all the posters on here that boast about the fact they carry 24/7.....
It's only a matter of time..........
.

arnmcrmn

So your answer is to disarm everyone. How surprising....coming from you. Guess, what criminals don't follow the law......just look at this article.

wiredmama222

Now that he is done in cleveland, he can zoom on over to Sandusky County and take a look see over there.

Cleveland has always been a mess. I bet the higher ups in the police department are not too happy. The Mayor isn't happy and the family is sure to sue.

I can hear Ricky Ricardo in my head "Lucy..you got som splaninn to do".