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article image63 Police officers suspended in shooting of unarmed man and woman

By Eric Morales     Oct 16, 2013 in World
Cleveland - Thirteen officers fired over 130 rounds at two unarmed passengers after mistaking a backfiring car for gunshots, in what some say was a racially motivated shooting.
Over sixty police officers with the Cleveland Police Department have been placed on suspension following the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, in a high speed chase that lasted nearly half an hour and saw 60 police cars race through residential areas, going in upwards of 125 miles per hour.
It's unknown why Timothy Russell, 43-years-old refused to stop when pulled over by a Cleveland police officer at 10:30 p.m. nearly a year ago. However an investigation into the incident which led to the shooting deaths of Russell and his passenger, 30-year-old Malissa Williams, has discovered that what the Cleveland officer thought was a gunshot, was actually Timothy Russell's 1979 Chevy backfiring.
Now Police Chief Mark McGrath has announced that 63 of the 104 officers involved in the high speed chase will be suspended up to 10 days. Meanwhile 13 officers directly involved in the shooting may face criminal charges.
The Ohio state investigation found that officers pursued the unarmed passengers without the permission of a sector supervisor. Further, during the pursuit officers did not follow instructions to switch their radios to one primary channel, had they the officers would have heard an order to discontinue the pursuit.
The officers involved believed they were responding to a call of shots fired, and that a police officer was in trouble.
The chase went through crowded residential neighborhoods, and ended up on a busy I-90, going through Cleveland and parts of East Cleveland. As the chase ended Russell allegedly rammed a police cruiser and drove toward a police officer on foot. That's when 13 police officers opened fire, discharging over 120 rounds.
Timothy Russell was shot 23 times, while his passenger Malissa Williams was shot 24 times. Russell had a prior criminal record for receiving stolen property and robbery. While Malissa Williams had previous convictions for drug charges and attempted kidnapping.
The officers involved are being suspended for excessive speeds, insubordination, and also not getting permission to join the pursuit. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said county prosecutors had not decided to file criminal charges against the officers involved.
"Justice was not delayed for the victims, " Mayor Jackson stated. He continued to state that his office was 'not throwing officers under the bus for political reasons and we're not covering anything up.'
Jeff Follmer, President of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association says the union will appeal the suspensions through arbitration.
"The suspensions are not consistent with what other officers received after similar chases," Follmer said, according to Cleveland.com. "I think the department is responding to public pressure in this case."
Nine Cleveland police supervisors were also suspended, one demoted, and one fired over their handling of the shooting, which some say was racially motivated.
"The people who live in the inner city in Cleveland, the black people in this community, feel that this was an assault on the whole community," Paul Cristallo, an attorney representing Timothy Russell's family said.
The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether the officers used excessive force.
More about Cleveland, Police, Shootout, Racism, Department of justice
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