Families, Community Rally Behind Chase Suspects
CLEVELAND– Tensions are growing between the families of two people killed by police last Thursday night and city leaders.
Family members of 43-year-old Timothy Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams are angry that 13 officers fired 137 rounds into a car killing them both instantly.
“How many times you gotta shoot someone to kill them?” asked Walter Jackson, Malissa’s uncle.
It started Thursday night, when an officer outside near the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland and several people inside said they heard a gunshot.
A high speed police chase followed and continued for 25 minutes through Cleveland, Bratenahl and into East Cleveland.
The chase finally ended near Heritage Middle School at Terrace and Rosemont in East Cleveland.
On police radio dispatch tapes you can hear the gunshots firing for 20 seconds.
Malissa’s uncle and others at the rally likened the hail of gunfire to the shootings of infamous criminals Bonnie and Clyde.
“The posse only shot these people (Bonnie and Clyde) 50 times, but Cleveland police put 137 bullets in these people,” said Art McKoy.
Neighbors were also terrified.
Elliot Cook said, “I have 5 kids I adopted. I had them lay on the floor cause I didn’t know what was going on.”
But officers said the shootings and chase were justified. They claim the suspects did have a weapon pointed at officers during the chase and that they rammed into a police cruiser.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson expressed his own concerns about everything from the length of the pursuit to the number of officers involved.
“As I’ve always said, if our police officers stay within the box and follow our policies and procedures they will have our full support,” said Mayor Jackson.
The 13 officers range in experience from a 30-year veteran to a relatively new hire.
Patrol Officer Wllfredo Diaz, 4 years
Patrol Officer Michael Brelo, 5 years
Patrol Officer Cynthia Moore, 5 years
Patrol Officer Michael Farley, 16 years
Patrol Officer Brian Sabolik, 2 years
Patrol Officer Paul Box, 16 years
Patrol Officer Randy Patrick, 15 years
Patrol Officer Scott Sistek, 4 years
Detective Michael Demchak, 30 years
Detective Erin O’Donnell, 14 years
Detective Christopher Ereg, 13 years
Detective Michael Rinkus, 20 years
Detective William Salupo, 14 years
Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said, “Twelve of 13 are Caucasian and one is Hispanic.”
Since both of the deceased were African American, some people at the rally said they think the shooting was racially motivated.
But city officials say they will get answers.
The Ohio Bureau Of Criminal Identification and Investigation will be leading the criminal investigation with East Cleveland; while Cleveland will handle the internal issues and determine if the officers followed proper protocol.
“Our responsibility is to look at the procedures that should’ve been followed,” said Mayor Jackson, “And if any of that was violated. If it is, then there are administrative actions we can take.”
In the meantime, the Mayor has asked the public for patience, but families say patience and pain aren’t always compatible emotions.
“I just wanted to know why they killed my baby. Why they had to shoot them that many times. I don’t understand,” said Martha Williams, Malissa’s mom.
Click to read much more on this case.
I-Team reporter Peggy Sinkovich has the police dispatch tapes. Watch her story below.