CLEVELAND– A regrettable situation: That’s how Cleveland’s police chief is describing a deadly police chase that left two people dead and a car riddled with bullets.
Friday afternoon, the investigation revealed that police cannot find a weapon in the car.
“I mean it’s just a tragedy and it’s very difficult. All night long I’m thinking why, why, why, why did this happen? We will find out why,” said Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath during a Friday evening news conference.
McGrath says investigators will get to the bottom of Thursday night’s deadly police chase and shooting. Police say one of the people is identified as Timothy Ray Russell, 43, of Maple Heights. The other has been identified as Malissa Williams, 30, who has no listed address.
“I’m so troubled that those people died and their families and everything else,” said McGrath.
Investigators say the chase started just before 11 p.m. Thursday, when an officer was working on his vehicle near the Justice Center downtown.
“They heard a car rev up past them. They heard what they thought was a gunshot directed either at them or at the building. That car took off at a high rate of speed. They forwarded that information to other cars,” said East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts.
Police say the pursuit, involving dozens of officers, lasted nearly 25 minutes on the highway and city streets, with reports the people inside were firing at police.
It ended in a school parking lot in East Cleveland when 13 officers fired 137 rounds at the vehicle.
“They searched the vehicle and there was no weapon found in the vehicle,” Spotts said.
“Why did we get involved in a chase for over 20 minutes? Why did we have 13 officers involved, shooting their weapons, firing 137 rounds? Those questions, why, why, why have been floating through my head all last night, all today and I don’t have answers for you right now,” said McGrath.
“Our officers are expected to make split second decisions, but the rules and policies help govern those decisions and that’s why I do in fact have a number of questions,” said Cleveland Safety Director Martin Flask.
The East Cleveland Police Department will investigate the incident, with help from BCI, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. When asked, Chief Spotts admitted an officer is heard in radio traffic saying, “It was a pop can in his hand, not a gun, sarge.”
“When you do something out on the streets and somebody dies, you gotta carry that weight with you your whole life and your family etc, etc. This is a tragedy for everybody, the community, the police department,” said McGrath.
Investigators also say they have not found any shell casings at the Justice Center where the incident started.
All 13 officers who fired rounds will be placed on administrative leave. Most of them are from the second district. So, the department is also working on a redeployment plan to deal with their absence.
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