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Cleveland police, city face lawsuits in deadly chase

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 5:54 p.m.

CLEVELAND — The estates of two people shot and killed by Cleveland police during a chase that involved more than 60 squad cars and 137 shots fired sued the city, the mayor and police on Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed electronically in U.S. District Court against Mayor Frank Jackson, Safety Director Martin Flask, police Chief Michael McGrath and dozens of officers, supervisors and dispatchers.

The lawsuit asked for improved police procedures and unspecified damages on behalf of the families of driver Timothy Russell, 43, and his passenger, Malissa Williams, 30.

Russell was shot 23 times, and Williams was shot 24 times one year ago.

Mayoral spokeswoman Maureen Harper said the city would respond to the issues in court. “As with any legal matter, we will review it and address the issues raised by the lawsuit through the legal process,” she said in an email.

The police union leader, Jeff Follmer, said the officers acted properly and would be vindicated in court.

“The officers were doing their job that night to protect the public and apprehend criminals,” Follmer said.

The lawsuit alleged excessive force by police, failure to supervise officers and assault and battery.

In addition to damages, the lawsuit asked the court to order the city to make changes in police policies to prevent a similar occurrence and appoint someone to implement any changes.

The chase, with more than a third of on-duty officers participating, began when one officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by police headquarters.

Both victims were black, and no weapon was found. Some community activists complained that the deaths were racially motivated executions by police.

Disciplinary hearings were held for more than 100 officers accused of joining the chase without permission, failure to manage officers or other departmental violations.

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