By JAMES W. WADE III
Thursday night many came out to the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church asking for answers to why 137 shots were fired that killed two people Malissa Williams (30) and Timothy Russell (43).
The community forum was held to give people a chance to ask questions about the shooting and the investigation. Relatives of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, were the first to ask questions and asked “Would these officers actually be brought up on charges, on murder charges?” asked an uncle of one of the victims.
Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland Division of Police Chief Michael McGrath faced the community and basically answered every question between the two of them. “We have a concern about the lag time as far as the officers being questioned and their time to get together to confer, having time to get their stories together,” said Kimberly Russell, Tim Russell’s sister in law.
“We’re always concerned about lag time, but we also have to be respectful of the officers’ rights,” responded Chief Michael McGrath as people in the audience made noises of disbelief. Chief McGrath told people in the packed room what city investigators do know. Last week, an officer thought a car was shooting at him in front of theJusticeCenterthat then led to a 25-minute chase which ended inHeritageSchoolparking lot inEast Clevelandwith 13 officers fired 137 rounds into the car.
“I'll tell everybody in this room, no matter what you say this evening or no matter what kind of questions you ask, I'm going to do my job and I'm going find out what happened on either side of the coin, either right or wrong. If the police were wrong, they were wrong. If the victims were wrong, they're wrong, but I'm going get you an answer and it's going to be true,” said Chief McGrath.
One problem the community is upset about is clear out of the 13 officer, 12 are white and one Hispanic. The other key factor besides the 137 shots fired is one week later still no gun or shell casings were found in the car or around the Justice center where this all started..
Many residents made it known loud and clear this is a Black and White problem that has been going on for years. At one point people askedEast Clevelandwas not there since they were leading the investigation. Chief McGrath told the crowd the criminal investigation is being handled byEast Clevelandpolice, the sheriff’s department and BCI, so his internal investigation is affected.
Williams’ cousin said she believes officers knew she was in the car. Charlotte Robinson believes the officers knew her cousin Malissa was in the car and they wanted to kill her and maybe Russell was trying to protect her.
Late Thursday night, Rep. Marcia Fudge called for action in the following statement:
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