Heated Crowd Attends Deadly Force Forum

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CLEVELAND -- An emotional and heated meeting Thursday night, as residents and relatives demand answers about last week’s deadly police chase and shooting that left two people dead.  A community forum was held to give people a chance to ask questions about the shooting and the investigation.

"Would these officers actually be brought up on charges, on murder charges?" asked an uncle of one of the victims.

Relatives of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, were the first to ask questions at a community forum at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church on Cleveland's east side.  City leaders like Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland Division of Police Chief Michael McGrath faced the community during the discussion.

"We have a concern about the lag time as far as the officers being questioned and their time to get together to confer, to talk about what they're gonna say," said Tim Russell’s sister in law.

"We're always concerned about lag time, but we also have to be respectful of the officers' rights," responded Chief Michael McGrath as people in the audience moaned.

Chief McGrath told people in the packed room what city investigators do know.  Last week, an officer thought a car was shooting at him in front of the Justice Center, a 25-minute chase ensued.  It ended in a middle school parking lot in East Cleveland after 13 officers fired 137 rounds into the car, killing Russell and Williams.  No gun or shell casings were found in the car.

In between each person asking a question, people in the crowd chanted "no justice, no peace."

Twelve officers in involved were white, one was hispanic, leading to allegations of racism, which Chief McGrath denies.

"A lot of people are saying is this a black and white thing.  Well to tell you the truth, yes it is, yes it is.  It's like Rodney King to the 30th power," yelled one relative.

"If the police were wrong, they were wrong, if the victims were wrong, then they were wrong, but I'm gonna get you an answer, it's gonna be fast and it's gonna be true," said Chief McGrath.

Chief McGrath told the crowd the criminal investigation is being handled by East Cleveland police, the sheriff's department and BCI, so his internal investigation is affected. 

Williams’ cousin said she believes officers knew she was in the car.

"They been messin' with Malissa, everybody has told us that, that's why they shot 137 times, they tried to murder her, they wanted to get rid of her," said her cousin Charlotte Robinson.

"You got 137 shots at this one car, do ya'll have any bullet holes in that police car to where they were shooting back?" said cousin Dontae Robinson.

"At this time in the investigation we did not find a handgun, there was no gun in the suspect's vehicle," McGrath responded.

One of Malissa’s cousins said she felt that the mayor and police chief were genuinely trying to figure out what happened and who, if anyone, should be punished … but she says her family is still angry.

Late Thursday night, Rep. Marcia Fudge called for action in the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life in this incident.  By any measure, the firing of 137 rounds of ammunition by police is extreme and warrants an absolutely thorough and impartial investigation.  I support Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in his call for an internal investigation and for a review by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This will help to ensure that no stone is left unturned in determining the facts leading up to and during the use of deadly force.  Any potential legal consequences that may arise from an investigation must rest on a full accounting, for the benefit of the community and the Cleveland Police Department.  Only then will justice be served.”

Chief McGrath said it could take up to two months to sort through whether proper policies and procedures were followed.

Click here for more on the chase and investigation ...