6 police officers fired, 6 more disciplined in deadly 2012 chase

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CLEVELAND-- The Cleveland police officer acquitted on manslaughter charges in the November 2012 chase and shooting has been fired.

Cleveland officials held a news conference on Tuesday to announce discipline against police officers for a chase that ended in officers firing 137 shots and killing two suspects.

Cleveland Safety Director Michael McGrath said they recommended that six officers be terminated and six officers be disciplined.

Michael Brelo is among those fired. Brelo's father, Paul Brelo, said he is very disappointed and feels the administration is "anti-cop." (Read his termination letter here)

The others terminated are:

Det. Erin O’Donnell
Officer Brian Sabolik
Officer Wilfredo Diaz
Officer Michael Farley
Det. Chris Ereg

Officer Paul Box, Officer Cynthia Moore, Officer Randy Patrick, Det. Michael Rinkus, Det. William Salupo and Office Scott Sistek were suspended.

(Read more on the discipline here)

The Nov. 29, 2012 chase began downtown when an officer reported hearing a gunshot from the car of Timothy Russell. For more than 20 minutes, Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, led police on a chase into East Cleveland.

The pursuit ended behind Heritage Middle School with 13 officers firing 137 shots, killing Russell and Williams. Only officer Brelo faced criminal charges, and last year he was cleared.

The 13th officer involved in the shooting retired.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said it is too early to tell if the six disciplined officers will be back on the streets.

When asked why it took so long for the disciplinary process, McGrath and Mayor Frank Jackson stressed the need for the criminal case to be over.

"These things take time and if you want to do it right, and have a sense of fairness and justice to it, you have to do it right," Jackson said.

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Jen Steer January 26, 20161:00 pm

Safety Director Michael McGrath says we’re holding this news conference to bring closure. He says the Nov. 29, 2012 chase involved more than 60 cars, 137 shots fired and two killed.

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McGrath put together the Critical Incident Review committee consisting of Cmdr. James Chura, Cassandra Bledsoe, Cmdr. Dornat Drummond, Sgt. Monroe Goins, Blaine Griffin, Nancy Kelly, Sgt. Stephen Merrifield, Lt. Robert Simon, Smdr. Patrick Stephens, Lt. Ronald Timm

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McGrath says the committee was director to look at the pursuit, not the officers themselves.

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In spring 2013, Cmdr. James Chura, chairman of the Critical Incident Review Committee, put together a presentation about the chase. 

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McGrath says they couldn’t repcede with any administrative discipline because they were waiting on the completion of the criminal trail. In June 2015, they brought back the Critical Incident Review Committee. In September, a second review was completed.

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The Critical Incident Review Committee’s review was turned over to Chief Calvin Williams, then to Safety Director McGrath.

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McGrath says they reviewed thousands and thousands of pages of documents, videos and photos. Then they made their recommendations to Mayor Frank Jackson.

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McGrath asks Cmdr. Chura to come up and review the chase and shooting.

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Cmdr. Chura’s review begins with the initial pursuit that does not involve the 13 officers.

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Chura says this report includes information that was already made public in April 2013. He will also present a video reconstruction of the chase.

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Why did this take so long? Chura says there was an intentional delay because of the criminal investigation. “This incident is unprecedented… It took an investigation just as unprecedented to get to the truth,” Chura said.

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Chura stresses they looked at all expert findings, including those from the prosecution and defense during the criminal trial. He wanted to come as close to the truth as humanly possible. 

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Chura’s review begins with the basic details of the chase. The pursuit began at 10:27 and ended at 10:54. The first phase of the chain of events was a pursuit.

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A third district officer checks the license plate on a 79 Chevy belonging to Timothy Russell, The plates check out clean. The officer pulls Russell over at East 18th Street and Rockwell.

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Chura shows a map of the probable route that Russell’s car took. It has never been confirmed that’s the exact route.

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At 10:31 p.m., an officer believes he hears a shot and radios to dispatch. “Shots fired out of a vehicle.”

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10:33 a zone car sees the car and calls out the location. “A Chevy just blew by us going over the Detroit/Superior Bridge Impala, going westbound.”

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10:35 dispatch says the car did “shoot off a round, he did shoot off a round at police.”

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10:35 third district supervisor terminates the pursuit for third districit cars.

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10:36 “Ok the second is still in pursuit just so you guys are aware and all third district to break off.”

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10:37 The pursuit continues westbound towards the first district border. 10:38 The pursuit approaches Clark.

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10:38 First district zone cars are ordered to terminate pursuit. 

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The first district zone cars involved break off and end their pursuit. 

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10:39 Pursuit crosses Scranton Avenue.

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10:40 “Coming up on Quigley, eastbound. Heading down the hill.” “He’s pointing a gun, he’s pointing a gun out the back window.”

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Third district dispatcher tells cars the suspect has a gun and is pointing a gun out the window in the area of Steelyard Commons.

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10:41 Pursuit is West 14th Street and Kenilworth. 10:42 Pursuit enters Interstate 90 eastbound.

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10:42 Fifth district dispatcher alerts those zone cars the pursuit is heading to their area. 

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10:42 Third district car didn’t break off in the pursuit earlier and requests to rejoin. Supervisor tells this car to break off of the chase.

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10:44 Suspect’s car is going through Dead Man’s Curb, the car blows a tire.

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10:45 p.m. Russell’s car exits at East 72nd Street, the car spins out in the grass. An officer knew the car was backfiring and did not transmit that information during the pursuit, Chura says.

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“He has a pair of black gloves, not a gun” an officer says over radio broadcast.

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10:47 p.m. Second district vice detective broadcasts that the suspect has a pop can in his hands. The dispatcher broadcasts that information to other cars.

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10:48 South on East 79th Street and then westbound on Decker Avenue. Chura once again says the second district officers involved are in violation of their orders.

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10:49 The suspect is still east on Wade Park. The fifth district supervisor terminates the pursuit for fifth district cars and that information is put on radio.

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10:50 Another fifth district supervisor asks for the termination time.

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10:52 The pursuit is now in East Cleveland. 10:53 Euclid and Belmore

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10:53 The suspect goes into the Happy’s Pizza parking lot. RTA video shows one car, then 60+ more cars going through the intersection. 

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10:54 The chase enters the drive to the parking lot of Heritage Middle School, a second district officer broadcasts they are at a water treatment plant. 

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46 supervisors on duty at the time of the chase, 18 supervisors involved, 12 supervisors receiving administrative charges. 63 officers suspended from duty.

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7 officers received non-disciplinary letters, one office got a written reprimand, three officers charges were dismissed.

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That previous information was just about the pursuit. We’re now going onto the shooting. Cmdr. Chura back at the podium.

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Section two attempts to recreate the shooting behind Heritage Middle School.

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Chura plays audio from a Bratenahl officer’s dash cam. The main volley of shots lasts 10.37 seconds, the gap is 4.17 seconds and the final volley of shots is 5.05. The total time between the first shot and the end is 19.6 seconds.

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Chura plays a reconstruction of the events in the school parking lot. 

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The video reconstruction was made using the model commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

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The video lasts 9 minutes, but the entire shooting only lasted about 9 seconds.

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Cmdr. James Chura plays the 9-minute again matched up with the actual audio from the Bratenahl police car. 

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This part of the review focuses on the main volley of shots which last 10.37 seconds. The main volley contained 117-120 shots.

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Chura defines cross fire. Even when not firing officers are instructed to be aware of risk assessment and the location of other officers.

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Chura says that an accurate shot is not easy especially in stressful circumstances, which is noted under the CIRC administrative review.

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Chura lists variables like dark conditions and flashing lights, pressure from a live fire situation, increased adrenaline, movement of officers to avoid shots.

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Officer A was charged with five violations, one was dismissed. Officer B was charged with seven violations and two were dismissed. 

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City spokesman Dan Williams says the recommendation is for six officers to be dismissed.

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Safety Director McGrath: “We did not go through the motions on this.”

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McGrath says it was very difficult to make these decisions, commends Cmdr. Chura. “At the end of the day, these were general police orders,” McGrath.

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McGrath says the recommendation is for six to be terminated, six to be disciplined and the remaining officer retired.

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Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams up at the podium. He says they take a look at the training and whether the officers used the training. “If we see there is a need for additional training or re-training… We do that.”

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Williams says the officers involved will have additional training or re-training. He says other officers are being training in pursuit policies to “mitigate” these incidents from happening further.

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Williams says he hopes officers understand what is expected of them as Cleveland police.

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Mayor Frank Jackson: “What we talked about from the beginning is that we would conduct a process.”

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Jackson says they conducted this a fair way, he cannot say how the public or police officers should feel. “It provides closure for us as far as an administration.”

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Jackson says this could all take a few more years once there are grievances and appeals.

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“These things take time and if you want to do it right and have a sense of fairness and justice to it, you have to do it right,” Jackson says.

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McGrath says sometime after their suspensions, those six officers will be back on the street. Williams says we’re a long way from that. “It’s too early to say all six officers will be put back on the street.”

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Calvin Williams: “It’s a lot of soul searching for a lot involved in law enforcement.”

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That concludes the news conference.