Thirteen Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots into the victims’ car after a high speed chase. The driver, Timothy Russell, 43, and the passenger, Malissa Williams, 30, were unarmed and killed in the parking lot of a suburban middle school.
According to the Associated Press, the chase started when officers on patrol near a homeless shelter on the edge of downtown Cleveland thought they heard a gunshot. Later, investigators said that it was likely that the officers heard Russell’s car backfiring. The 20-mile, 23-minute chase rose to speeds of 110 miles per hour.
Russell family attorney Terry Gilbert said the shooting was “probably one of the worst cases of police misconduct” in U.S. history because of the amount of officers involved. There were more than 100 police officers and 60 police cars, including some driven by supervisors, were involved in the pursuit. Gilbert said the officers opened fire after they had blocked Russell’s car and surrounded him when the chase ended in East Cleveland.
Officer Michael Brelo, who is facing two counts of voluntary manslaughter, jumped on the hood of Russell’s car and fired the last 15 shots into the windshield. He fired more than 100 shots, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Five supervisors, sergeants Randolph Dailey, Patricia Coleman, Jason Edens, Michael Donegan and Lt. Paul Wilson, are facing dereliction of duty charges.They pleaded not guilty.
One of Brelo’s defense attorneys, Patrick D’Angelo, believes Brelo will be vindicated. According to The Plain Dealer, D’Angelo has stressed that Russell attempted to drive over at least three officers.
The lack of supervision during the chase and shooting was evidence of a systemic problem within the police department that “led to the massive violations of the constitutional rights of Russell and Williams,” Gilbert said.
Cuyahoga County Probate Court Judge Anthony Russo approved the settlement as “fair and just before it is dispersed to the estates of Russell and Williams.” According to The Plain Dealer, after attorney fees Williams’ family will receive $869,315 and Russell’s family will receive $887,605. The city will pay the families in two payments.
The city of Cleveland released a statement that said: “The city settled this case with (the families of Russell and Williams) to resolve the lawsuit and avoid drawn-out litigation. The settlement is not an acknowledgement of liability.”
The U.S. Justice Department is conducting an investigation of the Cleveland police department’s pursuit and use of force practices, the AP says.