Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson disputes Ohio attorney general on deadly police chase

CLEVELAND - The mayor and Ohio attorney general disagreed sharply Friday over state findings that widespread failures in the Cleveland police department led to a chase last year that ended in 137 shots fired at a fleeing driver and passenger who were killed.

Mayor Frank Jackson disputed the findings, done at the city's request and released in February, that "systemic" failures of police command, control and communications led to the Nov. 29 chase.

Attorney General Mike DeWine stood by his findings as reasonable and carefully done and said he was shocked by Jackson's comments.

Jackson said any failures during the chase resulted from police supervisors and rank-and-file officers who didn't follow department procedures.

"There was a failure," the mayor told reporters in a city hall interview. "It was not systemic. It was a failure on the part of some supervisors and some patrol officers to do what they knew they should have done and what they were trained to do."

The mayor said the state report had jeopardized legal due process rights in the continuing investigation of officers by a county grand jury and a police disciplinary review.

Jackson said he had waited to speak out because he wanted the internal disciplinary process against officers to move along.

Twelve police supervisors are appealing disciplinary measures, including one dismissal, and more than 100 patrol officers involved in the chase are facing possible punishment at hearings beginning in July.

Disciplinary proceedings against another 13 officers who fired shots as the chase ended will be conducted after the county grand jury reviews the case for possible criminal wrongdoing.

DeWine said he was surprised by the mayor's comments and reiterated his conclusion that the chase resulted in police command, control and communication failures.

When the DeWine report was issued, Jackson's comments were muted, with him and police Chief Michael McGrath saying the findings were among factors the city would consider in its review.

The chase began when an officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by the police and courts complex in downtown Cleveland.

The chase ended in a blocked-off parking lot, with driver Timothy Russell, 43, shot 23 times and passenger Malissa Williams, 30, shot 24 times.

The police union has said the shootings were justified because the driver tried to ram an officer. No weapon or shell casings were found in the fleeing car.

Police don't know why Russell didn't stop. Russell had a criminal record including convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery. Williams had convictions for drug-related charges and attempted abduction.

The DeWine report noted the driver was legally drunk when he became involved in the chase, and both people in the car tested positive for cocaine. DeWine said they likely had been smoking crack.

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