CLEVELAND– The family of the driver who was killed in a hail of bullets last Thursday night, after leading Cleveland police on a high speed chase, is raising many questions about the shooting.
“Whatever happened to, ‘we got you surrounded. Put your hands up. Get out of the car. Put your hands up. Get on the ground’,” said Michelle Russell, the sister of 43-year-old Tim Russell. “It seems like they didn’t offer that option. They just started shooting.”
Michelle Russell said her family was stunned when they learned that her brother was the driver who led police on the chase, and then was killed, along with his passenger, 30-year-old Malissa Williams.
But the family was not surprised when investigators discovered that no guns or shell casings were found in the car, because according to them, Tim Russell did not carry a gun. “We believe that the police used excessive force. Tim and Malissa could have been taken into custody without being killed. The police chose to fire 137 rounds into a car, with two unarmed people in it and that cannot be justified,” she said.
The family has a theory about why an officer outside the Justice Center felt that he was being fired upon, which sparked the pursuit and shooting. They say Tim Russell was driving a car with a faulty muffler that occasionally backfired, and they believe the officer may have confused a backfire with gunfire.
Tim Russell’s criminal record includes arrests for robbery, receiving stolen property and failure to comply with the order of a police officer. The family is not sure why he decided to run from police on Thursday night, but Russell’s father concedes his son is not the first member of the family to do so. Dave Russell said, “When I was young, I ran from the police a couple of times, but when I did, I got away, I didn’t get hurt. But, I can say it looks like they should have been burying me instead of trying to bury them.”
The family has hired an attorney, which may be the first step in eventually taking legal action against the city of Cleveland and the police officers involved. Relatives say they support an independent investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
Funeral services for Tim Russell, who leaves behind a teenage son, will be held on Saturday in his hometown of Twinsburg.
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