Police dispatch traffic reveals contradictory information about the actions of two suspects who died in a hail of police gunfire late Thursday in East Cleveland.
Officers from the Cleveland Police Deparment, Bratenahl Police Department, and East Cleveland Police Department believed the two suspects were armed and had fired at police when 13 cops fired 137 rounds at Malissa Williams, 30, and Timothy Russell, 43. Williams was hit 24 times and Russell was hit 23 times, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Officers fatally shot the two after a 20-minute pursuit that began at the Cleveland Justice Center at about 10:30 p.m. and ended at Heritage Middle School.
Early in the pursuit, Cleveland officers can be heard warning dispatchers that the suspects are armed, reports WYKC. "He's pointing a gun out the back window," one officer can be heard saying. Another officer said the passenger was "point a firearm."
Toward the end of the pursuit, other officers give differing descriptions. An officer says a vehicle occupant "does not have a gun," but instead is wearing a pair of black gloves. Another officer reports a round being fired.
Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath has called it a "very regrettable situation, not just for the community but for the police department," at a news conference Friday. McGrath has asked for federal assistance in the shooting investigation, a move that has rankled police union officials, reports the Plain Dealer.
The shooting has raised the racial temperature in Cleveland. The two suspects were black and 12 of the 13 officers were white. One was Latino. Protesters have called the shooting a "lynching" and compared it with the deaths of Depression-era robbers Bonnie and Clyde, reports the Plain Dealer.
The radio traffic raised an additional question about the shooting. Two Cleveland Police supervisors can be heard on dispatch audio attempting to terminate the pursuit about five minutes before the shooting.
Russell, who was driving the 1979 Chevrolet Malibu SS, has an extensive criminal record.