Police Practices

13 Cops + 137 Bullets + 2 Dead Bodies = One Tragedy

01.10.13

On November 29, 2012, over two dozen police cars from multiple law enforcement jurisdictions participated in a 26-minute police chase through three northeastern Ohio cities. The chase ended on a dead-end street in East Cleveland, where 13 Cleveland police officers fired 137 rounds into one trapped vehicle, killing two unarmed suspects.

Police claimed the chase began when they heard a gunshot coming from a passing vehicle. However, no weapons, or evidence of gunshots were ever recovered and current reports claim the noise may well have been a backfiring engine.

In the weeks that followed, many other disturbing procedural questions emerged:

  • Why were there over two dozen police vehicles involved in the chase, a number that appears to violate existing departmental policy on pursuits?
  • Why did some officers who were ordered to terminate the chase refuse to comply?
  • Why did a single police officer fire 30-40 rounds, a number that would necessitate reloading his weapon at least once?

These and other questions are currently being investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), the East Cleveland Police Department, and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. The results of this investigation will be given to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty for review.

While the integrity of these investigators is not in question, their potential conflicts of interest are. Two of these local agencies were involved in the very events being investigated and the county prosecutor deals closely with all local law enforcement agencies on a day to day basis.

These facts make local personnel less than ideal for this investigation. For that reason, the ACLU of Ohio has asked the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor to step away. We have also requested that the Ohio Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor to review the results of the ongoing BCI investigation while removing East Cleveland police, and Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s deputies from the case.

Additionally, the ACLU of Ohio has requested a federal investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s decade-long pattern of violence and disregard for internal policy.

This would not be the first time the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the department. Beginning In 2000, DOJ launched an investigation into repeated complaints that Cleveland police were violating the constitutional rights of citizens.

When the DOJ investigation finally closed in 2004, it had found numerous issues and extracted a promise from the department to make changes. By the end of the next year, five more police suspects had died under questionable circumstances.

These issues have continued unabated into the new decade. Viewed as a timeline, a sad pattern emerges; a spiral of policy violations, violence, and eventually blood in the streets. Until we address this pattern, we will inevitably see the same spiral over and over, culminating in more events like the one on November 29, 2012.