NOVEMBER 29, 2012 - Cleveland, Ohio
On Nov. 29, 2012, Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell were shot and killed after a 22-mile high speed chase through Cleveland, Ohio involving 104 police officers. Russell was shot 23 times and Williams 24 times. The chase began about 10:30 p.m. when an officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by the police complex in downtown Cleveland. He jumped into his patrol car and radioed for help. When the chase finally ended in a middle school parking lot in East Cleveland, 13 officers had fired 137 bullets at Williams and Russell. When the bodies were removed from the car, police discovered the victims were unarmed. More than 30 percent of patrol officers violated at least one policy during the high-speed chase, either failing to follow a supervisor order to terminate the chase or by driving unsafely. Five police supervisors were indicted for dereliction of duty. The officers who fired included 12 whites and 1 Hispanic. Both victims were black. The NAACP called the shootings unacceptable and avoidable and called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called for a special prosecutor without ties to the northeast Ohio law enforcement community. The ACLU also asked the attorney general to remove East Cleveland police and the sheriff’s department from the state probe because they were involved in the chase. After a year and a half and many investigations, one of the officers, Michael Brelo, faced two counts of voluntary manslaughter. After Russell’s car came to a halt, most officers stopped shooting. But officer Brelo started shooting again and fired at least 15 shots, including fatal shots, down into the windshield into the victims as he stood on the hood of Mr. Russell’s car. Investigators found Brelo fired a total of 49 shots the night of the chase. Despite the initial belief that Russell or Williams may have fired at police, investigators never found a gun. The state attorney general says police were caught in their own crossfire. On May 23, 2015, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell found Brelo not guilty of the charges. O’Donnell stated that while Brelo fired lethal shots at Russell and Williams, other officers did as well. O’Donnell also found Brelo not guilty of a lesser included charge of felonious assault, claiming that Brelo was legally justified in his use of deadly force.