CLEVELAND, Ohio — For the first time since a lawsuit was settled by the families of two suspects killed in a Cleveland police chase, one of those families is speaking out.
The chase took place Nov. 29, 2012, after an officer at the Justice Center thought someone in the car of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams fired a shot at him.
The chase ended in East Cleveland, when 13 officers fired 137 shots, killing the two suspects, who were unarmed.
Last week, a lawsuit filed by the families of Williams and Russell was settled. The details of that settlement have not been released.
The family of Timothy Russell released a statement tonight stressing they had a close relationship with him, and are upset by comments made by the police union that suggest otherwise.
They are also upset that police union officials referred to the chase and shooting as a “good shooting.”
The statement released Sunday evening by Paul Cristallo, attorney for the Russell family, said the following:
“From the day the Cleveland Police shot and killed Tim Russell, his family has been suffering. Tim’s father Dave, his sister Michelle, his brothers David Jr., Donald, Michael, as well as their spouses and children, lost a beloved family member in a gruesome execution that became a public spectacle. The Russell family did not ask for this tragedy nor the publicity that has come with it.
Rather than be able to deal with Tim’s death in a private and personal manner, the Russell family was put in a position of having to deal with the media, investigators, community activists, government officials, and, of course, public opinion.
Before Tim’s body was laid to rest, the Russell family has had to deal with disparaging and hurtful comments. People who never knew Tim or Melissa posted tasteless, racist and mean spirited comments about them and their families. Yet as awful as many of those comments were, the Russell family has always appreciated that ignorant people exist, the internet allows people to hide behind anonymity, and that the only judgment that matters is the one that comes from God.
The Russell family’s strength and faith does not, however, make them impervious to insults.
Prior to any relevant facts regarding the shooting coming to light, the police representatives were calling this a “good shooting”. The police involved in the pursuit and shooting were lauded by union representatives as “heroes”. We now know they were wrong. It is clear that Officer Brelo, Police Supervisors and anyof the Cleveland Police involved with the November 29, 2012 pursuit and shooting were not heroes; far from it. Mayor Jackson, Attorney General DeWine, Prosecutor McGinty, the U.S. Department of Justice Investigators and countless members of the community who appreciate what it means to shoot two unarmed people 137 times recognize that Tim and Melissa’s killing was a horrible tragedy.
It is apparent, however, that the Cleveland police union representatives are going to continue in their desperate attempt to spin this tragedy into anything other than a complete debacle by some members of the Cleveland Police. They have committed to a public relations campaign that is simply baffling and will, ultimately, further alienate the Cleveland Police from the community they are hired to protect.
Evidence the most recent comments by union counsel and now defense attorney Mr. Pat D’Angelo. Apparently it wasn’t enough for the police union to denigrate Tim and Melissa while praising their (now disciplined or indicted) members for the unlawful pursuit and shooting. Tim and Melissa’s families are now being accused of being in it for the money and not having a relationship with the deceased.
Tim Russell had a close and loving relationship with his immediate and extended family. Tim regularly attended church with his family and was one of the founding members of “From Darkness to Light”, a registered charity which assists homeless people. His family loved him beyond words and they suffer his loss every day. Disparaging Tim’s relationship with his family or impugning their motives isn’t based in reality. It’s nothing more than disrespectful spin. It’s another ill-advised comment which is meant to distract and insulate the Cleveland Police from taking responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings.
For police representatives or their attorneys to continue to make inaccurate, mean spirited statements in this regard, it tells us more about their motives than anyone else’s. Regardless of your opinion relative to how the Cleveland Police handled this situation, and regardless of your judgments of Tim and Melissa, you don’t know how their families have suffered or what is in their hearts.”
Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer tells Fox 8 he stands by his prior statements.
“It was a chase provoked by two convicted criminals,” Follmer said. ” They were on a crime spree that night to endanger citizens and police officers. If they would have stopped from the beginning we wouldn’t be in the position to begin with.”