CLEVELAND — Should a special prosecutor be appointed to look into a deadly police chase and shooting that killed two unarmed people?
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, asking him to remove his office, the East Cleveland police and county sheriff’s department from investigating the controversial case.
They are calling for the attorney general to appoint an outside prosecutor to look into the case.
“It isn’t an attack on the integrity of the East Cleveland Police Department or the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. The question is, we need to have an investigation that the community is going to be able to stand behind and ensure that there isn’t any questions of conflicts of interest,” said Nick Worner, ACLU communications coordinator.
On November 29, 13 police officers fired 137 rounds into a car, killing 43-year old Timothy Russell and 30-year old Malissa Williams in the parking lot of an East Cleveland middle school.
Cleveland police say they had led them on a 25-minute chase after an officer believed they had fired a shot at him in front of the Justice Center.
“The passenger turns around and points an object, either looking or being a gun at the officers that are pursuing that vehicle,” explained CPPA President Jeff Follmer.
“East Cleveland, the sheriff’s department and BCI are working together. The facts are the facts. The interviews are all videotaped and taped. The evidence, I believe, is all being done by BCI, so I think it’s pretty fair right now on how it’s being conducted,” Follmer added.
Follmer feels there is no need for a special prosecutor. He says all 13 officers involved in the shooting have been interviewed by investigators as well as most officers involved in the chase.
“We’ve had police officers tear up in this. We’ve had police officers say they don’t want to be policemen anymore and we’ve had police officers who’ve been on for a while say this was the worst deadly force that they’ve ever been involved in or seen,” Follmer said.
In response to the ACLU’s request, the attorney general’s office says “The Attorney General has no independent authority to appoint a special prosecutor absent a request from a county prosecuting attorney.”
Cuyahoga prosecutor Tim McGinty responded, “I have never been one to dodge hard work. I have asked Attorney General Mike DeWine and Sheriff Bob Reid to thoroughly investigate this matter. I have great confidence in their ability and professionalism.”