CLEVELAND — Cleveland's Civilian Police Review Board recommended discipline Tuesday for two police officers and two police supervisors involved in a December 2019 police chase that ended with the death of 13-year old Tamia Chappman in East Cleveland.
Chappman and her friends were walking along the sidewalk on Euclid Avenue when investigators said a stolen SUV being chased by Cleveland police hit another car and then drove onto the sidewalk killing Chappman and severely injuring her 13-year old friend.
Investigators with the city's Office of Professional Standards said Tuesday police were justified in pursuing the SUV after it was stolen at gunpoint from a woman in the parking lot of a Target store on West 117th Street.
However, investigators found the pursuit hit unsafe speeds shortly before the crash and should have been terminated.
"When the speed exceeds safe limits that alone is a reason to terminate the pursuit," said Roger Smith, head of the Office of Professional Standards. "And in this case, if the evidence is clear about anything, it's clear the speed exceeded safe limits."
Investigators said accident reconstructionists determined moments before the crash, the stolen SUV was traveling 90 miles an hour down Euclid Avenue. Investigators said the speeds of the two police cars pursuing the SUV were 89.9 miles an hour and 84.5 miles an hour in the 35 mph zone.
The review board recommended discipline against the drivers of the two police cars involved Police Officer Christian Stipkovich and Police Officer Dustin Miller for violating the department's pursuit policies.
The board also recommended discipline against two supervisors, Sgt. Michael Chapman and Lt. Gregory Farmer. Investigators said Chapman failed to properly monitor the pursuit and both supervisors failed to call off the chase when conditions became unsafe.
"Under the circumstances, they had a clear obligation to terminate the pursuit," said David Hammons who investigated the case for OPS.
Six other officers were cleared of wrongdoing by the review board.
The board recommended discipline ranging from verbal reprimands up to a five-day suspension in each case.
It will be up to Cleveland's police chief to decide what, if any, punishment officers receive.
In a statement, President of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association Jeff Follmer said, “The civilian review board's only function is to bring discipline to our officers. Unfortunately, they do their job sometimes without common sense. This is an unfortunate tragedy caused by violent teenagers that carjacked a lady on the west side. It’s unfortunate that we still try to blame the police for individuals committing violent crimes.”
Attorney Stanley Jackson, who represents the families of both Chappman and the other teen injured in the crash, said both families were hurt and upset by investigators' findings.
Jackson said he believes the crash was the result of a lack of accountability inside the police department.