Six Cleveland Cops Fired For Their Roles In Fatal 2012 Car Chase

Six Cleveland Cops have been fired, and multiple others face disciplinary action — and even criminal charges — for their roles in a fatal 2012 high-speed chase that ended in the deaths of an unarmed black man and woman, AOL is reporting.

On November 29, 2012, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, a homeless couple with extensive criminal records, were driving around, likely looking for drugs. At around 10:30 p.m., Russell’s Chevy Malibu was spotted by a Cleveland cop at an area known for drug deals. The cop called in the license plate number, which came back clean. Regardless, the officer attempted to pull over Russell for a turn signal violation. Russell sped away.

As Russell sped off, other Cleveland officers joined in the chase. At some point, officers reported hearing a loud “bang,” which they believed was gunfire. A later investigation would determine that the sound was most likely Russell’s car backfiring.

Eventually, the chase would include some 62 Cleveland Police vehicles, reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, and move through several different municipalities in the area.

The chase concluded when Russell turned into the parking lot of a school in East Cleveland. Some police officers’ reports of the incident stated that they believed Russell was either firing at them or trying to run them over. In all, 13 officers fired 137 rounds at the vehicle, striking Russell 23 times and Williams 24 times. Both died from their wounds.

A later investigation would determine that both individuals were unarmed.

Cleveland Police Commander James Chura spoke of the extent of the investigation into the incident.

“The incident was unprecedented. It took an investigation just as unprecedented to get to the truth.”

Following the investigation, only one Cleveland police officer, Iraq War veteran Michael Brelo, faced felony charges in the incident. He was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter in May 2014; he was found not guilty by a Cuyahoga County judge in May 2015.

Brelo’s acquittal brought protests and demonstrations, sometimes violent, to Cleveland.

Five other officers involved in the chase were charged with dereliction of duty. As of this writing, they are awaiting trial.

The City of Cleveland eventually settled with the families of Russell and Williams, paying them $1.5 million each.

On Tuesday, Cleveland officials announced that Brelo, as well as the five other officers charged criminally in the case (Wilfredo Diaz, Brian Sabolik, Erin O’Donnell, Michael Farley, and Chris Ereg), have been fired from their jobs. Six more officers involved in the incident will be suspended; another took early retirement rather than face disciplinary charges.

The firings come amidst widespread attention on the purported excesses of the Cleveland Police Department. In November 2014, for example, Cleveland Police officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black juvenile who was carrying a toy gun. A 2014 Justice Department report found that Cleveland police engage in a “pattern and practice of excessive force.”

In a statement, Steve Loomis, the president of the union that represents Cleveland officers, said that the union has filed grievances with the city to get the fired cops their jobs back. He also called the firings “shamefully political” and said they were the “direct result of the current and false narrative surrounding the facts and law enforcement throughout this country.”

Do you believe the Cleveland Police officers deserved to be fired over the Russell/Williams incident? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Image via Shutterstock/Schmidt_Alex]