6 CLE officers fired, 6 disciplined, 1 retired as a result of deadly 2012 police chase
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - More than three years after a deadly police chase and shooting led to the deaths of two unarmed people, the city disciplined the officers. Six officers, including Michael Brelo have been fired and six others were suspended. One officer retired.
A 28-minute pursuit of the car Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were in led to a shootout where police officers fired 137-shots killing the two.
The chase started in Cleveland and ended at Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland.
The six officers fired were Officer Michael Brelo, Officer Wilfredo Diaz, Det. Christopher Ereg, Officer Michael Farley, Det. Erin O'Donnell and Officer Brian Sabolik. Brelo was the only officer who was indicted. He was acquitted on manslaughter charges May 2015 in a bench trial.
The officers suspended were Officer Scott Sistek, Officer Cynthia Moore, Det. Michael Rinkus, Det. William Salupo, Officer Randy Patrick and Officer Paul Box.
The suspensions are 21 to 30 days.
Det. Michael Demchak retired.
Director of Public Safety Michael McGrath, who was the police chief in 2012, said his decision about which officers were disciplined was based on a lot of things, including officer interviews and reports. McGrath said it came down to if police rules were violated.
Some of the violations the city cited were: officers "engaging in a pursuit without explicit permission" from supervisor, creating a crossfire situation and leaving the city without permission.
The city said all officers still on the job will be retrained and the chief said at this point it's too soon to say if they will all head back on the streets to interact with the public.
Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams said he's confident that his officers wouldn't act the same as some did in 2012.
"It's been three years and we haven't been in those situations," said Chief Williams.
The Russell family's attorney responded after the announcement of the punishment.
""It really brings back what a colossal disaster this entire event was. It really just brings home how two unarmed people could be killed like this and how it's a miracle any others, any police officers weren't hurt," said Paul Cristallo, Russell family attorney.
The chase began when officers standing outside police headquarters mistook the sound of a car backfiring with a gunshot. Authorities never learned why Russell never stopped.
3:21 p.m. Police union president says the union will fight the punishment.
2:20 p.m. "It was very difficult it was very difficult for all of us" says Dir. McGrath but says officers had to comply with rules and regulations.
"Even though we know there will be grievances filed and we'll have to deal with appeals, I felt we did what was fair," said CLE Mayor Frank Jackson.
"At some point after the suspensions these officers could be back on the streets," said Chief Calvin Williams.
2:06 p.m. The recommendations are from the chief's office and I, Public Safety Dir. Michael McGrath, either sustained or dismissed.
The recommendations are that 6 officers be terminated, 6 were disciplined, 1 retired.
1:59 p.m. "We just spent nine minutes trying to explain each individual officers actions" in reality everything happened within 10 seconds.
1:48 p.m. Initial shooting at windshield of suspect car causes the "initial volley" of gunshots. One officer said he believed the gunshots started when the suspect's car hit the police officer's car.
A video reconstruction of the events are being played. Many officers thought they were at a water treatment plant. They did not know they were at Heritage Middle School.
1:40 p.m. Section Two and Three, presented by Commander James Chura, will deal with shots fired.
1:37 p.m. Section One complete.
277 officers on duty, 105 involved in pursuit, 74 receive administrative charges. 46 supervisors were on duty at the time of the chase, 18 supervisors were involved, 12 supervisors receiving administrative charges.
1:20 p.m. Cleveland police Commander James Chura states the reason the investigation took so long was because this Nov. chase was unprecedented for the city of Cleveland. He says goal was not a rush to judgment but to find out the truth of what happened that night.
Commander Chura is playing radio calls and we are also hearing audio of dashcam from the night of the chase. Also being shown is the likely route taken by Russell and Williams.
1 p.m. Public Safety Dir. Michael McGrath - "That morning , Nov. 30, 2012 I put together a team of officers, community relations team, command staff, training officers and other and they were to review the events of what happened. They only looked at the officers involved in the pursuit, not the officers involved in the shooting." The investigation began with 200 plus officers and eventually narrowed it down to around 60 officers.
In the Spring of 2013, April, review of pursuit was completed.
In June of 2015 the criminal proceedings were completed.
After Chief Williams brought the review back to the committee so the 13 officers participation in the pursuit and shooting was also reviewed.
Oct. & Nov., 2015 disciplinary hearings were conducted for the 13 officers.
Today we are going to focus on the particular hearing.
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