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'Systemic failures' cited in deadly police chase

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 8:22 p.m.

RICHFIELD, Ohio — Leadership and communications failures led to the chaotic police chase in Cleveland last fall that ended with 13 officers firing 137 rounds and killing two people who were likely unarmed, Ohio's attorney general said on Tuesday in reporting the results of an exhaustive investigation.

“It was total lack of control,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said during a news conference at the state crime laboratory.

He turned over the report to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who said he would take the case to a grand jury to determine if any of the officers should face criminal charges.

The report did not assign blame on any of the officers but said “systemic failures” in the Cleveland Police Department led to the escalation of the Nov. 29 chase and the fatal shootings of the car's driver, Timothy Russell, 43, and his 30-year-old passenger, Malissa Williams.

“Command failed, communications failed, the system failed,” DeWine said.

Patrick D'Angelo, the police union attorney, said the shooting would be found to be justified. The chase reflects the risks officers face daily, he said.

“The driver of the car tried to run over numerous police officers, he intentionally rammed other patrol cars and officers were in fear of their life, and they did what they were trained to do,” D'Angelo said.

A key question remained unanswered: Did the two people fleeing in the car have a weapon that was tossed out during the chase? DeWine said tests on the two and their vehicle showed traces of gunpowder but it wasn't conclusive on whether they had been armed or on whether the residue came from the extensive gunfire.

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