I-Team: Suspect fleeing East Cleveland officers crashes car injuring innocent man

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EAST CLEVELAND (WJW) – A Cleveland man was seriously injured after being struck by a suspect fleeing from East Cleveland police.

Eddie Rodriguez, 34,  suffered serious injuries after the crash, which happened around 9:30 p.m. Saturday near Broadway and Harvard avenues in Cleveland.

“I was going back to my shop to get some tools when this happened,” Rodriguez told the FOX 8 I-Team. “His car hit my car in the front fender, the front light.  It took the whole front end off of the car.”

Rodriguez said he suffered several injuries. He spent four days in the hospital and had surgery to repair a shattered ankle. His vehicle caught on fire after the crash.

“I am so thankful for the people that witnessed it and were there,” Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t stand on my legs. If they weren’t there, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”

The suspect fled seconds after the crash. East Cleveland police chased him.

“He is running,” an East Cleveland officer said on body camera video obtained by the I-Team. “Get on the ground. I am going to shoot you. Get on the ground.” 

The suspect was apprehended, and is now facing charges of fleeing and eluding and carrying a concealed weapon. The officer chased the suspect after he refused to stop for a traffic violation.  The case remains under investigation and additional charges could be filed.

Rodriguez and his attorney, Tom Merriman, questioned why East Cleveland was chasing the suspect at high rates of speed that was originally wanted on traffic charges.

“He left East Cleveland going all over the east side of Cleveland, going to the south side of Cleveland,” Merriman said. “He went through neighborhoods that he probably is not even familiar with. He put so many people at risk. Somebody in East Cleveland who has some authority needs to investigate this.”

East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner said the chases his department conducts are, “Consistently monitored and under state law.”

“This particular chase was initially started because the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed and not having any license plate,” the chief stated in a statement sent to the I-Team. “The speed is of paramount concern, as accidents have drastically risen since the Ohio Department of Transportation has elected to remove traffic lights. Failure to have plates is a strong indicator for us that the vehicle may be stolen.”

The chief added they do not want anyone hurt. He said the offender is the one that is responsible.

“Just visiting social media, it is alarming to see the number of people under the perception that police cannot pursue,” the chief said  “I have nothing but respect for the boarding police department and their men and women on their police force. They are among some of the best officers I have ever had the pleasure of working beside. However, their administration, electing not to allow pursuits, has caused other agencies that border to be impacted by those that feel that when they do not want to be arrested, they simply can run. In this case, the offender had a prohibited firearm and an extended magazine. We have begun to post our arrests on Facebook. You will see that these pursuits are not because of someone’s tail light being out. And pretty much every arrest has generated an illegal firearm and or drugs. “

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