Deadly Chase Update: Sergeant Suspended

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(Photo Credit: Fox 8 News)

CLEVELAND — A Cleveland Division of Police sergeant was suspended without pay for 10 workdays for his role in a chase that ended with two unarmed suspects being killed inside their vehicle.

Specifically, he’s accused of failing to acknowledge a pursuit that involved personnel under his direct supervision and failing to supervise those under his command.

Department of Public Safety Director Martin Flask sent Brian Chetnik a letter on Thursday, July 18, advising Chetnik of his suspension.

A hearing was supposed to take place on June 25 to address the results of an internal investigation, in which Sgt. Brian Chetnik was accused of engaging in improper conduct, but Chetnik did not attend.

Lt. Brian Bentley, president of the union that represents police supervisors, said Chetnik was not required to be there in person.  He said Chetnik did attend a disciplinary hearing in the chief’s office a few weeks prior dealing with the same issue.

“I am disappointed that you failed to attend the hearing,” Department of Safety Director Martin Flask wrote in the letter. “Although it may be your legal right to do so, your failure to offer any rebuttal to the charges or offer any mitigating evidence implies guilty in spite of your plea of not guilty.”

The chase in question took place on Nov. 29 and prompted the review of 104 patrol officers, which Chief Michael McGrath just finished.

He and his staff must now review the violations and prepare charging letters.  The city has not released how many police officers may face discipline.

The internal review right now applies to the 22-minute chase only, however 13 officers fired 137 rounds at the vehicle, killing suspects Timothy Russel, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, inside.

The shooting part of the chase will not be dealt with administratively until the criminal review is completed.

It is still up to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty to determine whether any criminal charges will be filed.

A weapon was never found in the car or along the pursuit route, which started at the Justice Center in Cleveland, when an officer thought someone fired at him, and ended in East Cleveland.

So far one supervisor, Sgt. Michael Donegan, has been fired, 2 others demoted, and 9 disciplined.

A fundraiser will be held Aug. 1 at the Fraternal Order of Police Union Hall to help Donegan.  He is appealing his termination.

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