Sunday, July 20, 2014

Russell estate Attorney Terry Gilbert thanks community activists around 137 shots deadly Cleveland police shooting settlement, gives exclusive interview to Cleveland Urban News.Com, says "the fight is really just beginning"


Cleveland police cars chase two unarmed Blacks from downtown Cleveland to neighboring East Cleveland the night of Nov. 29, 2012. The 23 minute car chase ended in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland and culminated in 13 non- Black Cleveland police officers firing a total of 137 bullets at Malissa Williams 30, and Timothy Ray Russell, 43, the driver of the 1979 Chevy Malibu. Both Russell and Williams were Black, and both died at the scene.

Shooting Victim Malissa Williams

Shooting Victim Timothy Ray Russell
Cleveland Attorney Terry Gilbert, who represents the estate of Timothy Russell
relative to the affiliated Civil Rights and excessive force lawsuit that the city of Cleveland settled on Monday

By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-n-chief, Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog, Tel: (216) 659-0473 
Kathy Wray Coleman is  a community activist and 20 year investigative journalist who trained for 17 years at the Call and Post Newspaper.  (www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)

CLEVELAND, Ohio- The city of Cleveland has reached a settlement in a notorious Civil Rights and  police excessive force case, likely the worst in city history, where unarmed Blacks Malissa Williams, 30, and Tim Russell, 43, were gunned down the night of  Nov. 29, 2012 with Cleveland police slinging 137 bullets.

Among the host of defendants named in the two lawsuits are police, all of them at issue sued in both their official and personal capacities, and the city of Cleveland.

The fatal shooting followed a high speed car chase that began in downtown Cleveland and ended in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in neighboring East Cleveland. 

The settlement was reached on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio before federal district court Judge Dan Polster, who put a gag order on the parties to the case and their attorneys, one that will not truly be settled until probate court resolves several claims to the estates of the two shooting victims, something that attorneys for the plaintiffs say could take weeks or even months.

"The next step is probate court," said Civil Rights and constitutional attorney Terry Gilbert, in an exclusive interview on Monday with Cleveland Urban News.Com, Ohio's leading digital Black newspaper. 

Gilbert represents the estate of Russell's son, now 18.

David Malik and Tyrone Reed, also Cleveland area attorneys, represent the Williams family in the lawsuit.

A renowned lawyer who has settled several record breaking Cleveland police excessive force cases, Gilbert is still concerned that excessive force by Cleveland police remains a problem to the Black community and others. 

"We have  a lot more work to do to reform the Cleveland police department," said Gilbert, before thanking community activists for their support in bringing awareness around the unprecedented case, which he says also contributed to a timely settlement. 

"The presence of community activists on raising awareness of what happen on Nov 29, 2012 has and will be instrumental in seeking accountability by the Cleveland Police Department," he said.

Gilbert said that neither he nor the other attorneys or the parties to the case are at liberty to disclose the amount of the settlement, the judge ordered. And he said that the fight to eradicate excessive force incidents by Cleveland police against the community and for justice for Malissa and Tim and all like them is not over by a long-shot.

"The fight is just really beginning,"said Gilbert.

A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury last month handed down an indictment on two counts of voluntary manslaughter against one of 13 non- Black Cleveland police officers that gunned down Williams and  Russell , a celebrated tragedy that has heighten racial unrest in the predominantly Black major metropolitan city. 

Prosecutors had sought a two-count murder indictment for Patrolman Michael Brelo, among other charges, but the grand jury opted for the lesser charge of manslaughter. The case is before Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell and Brelo has pleaded not guilty.

Manslaughter is a first degree felony in Ohio that carries a possible prison sentence of three to 10 years. 

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty told reporters during a press conference on the grand jury indictments  that his office did not recommend any charges against the 12 officers that escaped indictments, 11 White and one Hispanic. That posture has upset community activists who have protested and are demanding that another grand jury convene independent of what they say was prejudice by McGinty and his office. They also want federal charges as well as the firing of the 13 cops that did the shooting. 

Some community members and community activists called the grand jury decision and McGinty's refusal to seek charges against the 12 police officers at issue unjust, racist and outright shameful.

"The neo- Nazi's won and it is unbelievable that only one police officer faces felony charges and the other 12 got away with killing two unarmed Black people," said Community activist Pierre Nappier, who had protested over the deadly shooting with
Cleveland area religious groups such as the United Pastors in Mission and the Baptist Minister Alliance and  with members of the Cleveland Chapter NAACP and  greater Cleveland grassroots groups including Black on Black Crime Inc, the Carl Stokes Brigade, the Imperial Women Coalition, Revolution Books, Peace in the Hood, Stop Targeting Ohio's Poor, and the Oppressed People's Nation.

Brelo was the lone Cleveland police patrolman charged. He
 jumped aboard the hood of the 1979 Chevy Malibu driven by Russell and fired 49 shots through the windshield, though by then the car was stopped, and even McGinty admitted to reporters that neither Williams nor Russell posed any immediate threat.

Brelo's shooting escapade followed the 23-minute minute high speed chase from Cleveland to East Cleveland

Police say they they thought they heard a gun shot and initiated a chase, but it was allegedly Russell's car backfiring. 

No gun was found at the deadly scene.

All 13 of the cops that shot Williams and Russell that night, including Brelo, told the grand jury that they feared for their lives and believed that Williams and Russell, and  not fellow cops, were slinging bullets gangsta-style at Heritage Middle School the night in question. Some of the officers even cried to the television cameras, before the grand jury convened. 

Russell and Williams were killed in a fetal position in Russell's shot up car.  The pair died at the scene, Russell shot 23 times and Williams, 24. 

Also charged by the county grand jury were five police supervisors, but on second degree misdemeanor charges of dereliction of duty. They have all pleaded not guilty and  are sergeants Patricia Coleman, Randolph Daley, Jason Edens, Michael Donegan and Lt.Paul Wilson

The police supervisors, other than Donegan, who was fired last year, have been placed on restricted duty while Brelo has been suspended without pay. Those supervisors were among nine involved in the tragic episode that were suspended last year, with two demoted, though an arbitrator subsequently ruled in their favor and  reversed the disciplinary measures.

How any potential misdemeanor convictions, which carry a possible fine and up to 90 days in jail,  will impact their employment status is not clear, though a felony conviction for Brelo is automatic termination under state law. 

All 12 police officers that got off still face possible disciplinary charges, said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams at a press conference after the grand jury indictments came down.

Attorney General Mike DeWine released findings last year by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) in a comprehensive 290 page report where he laid blame on the administration of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and what he said are infrastructure problems in the Cleveland Police Department, a claim the mayor has publicly denied.
Reach Cleveland Urban News.Com by email at editor@clevelandurbannews.com and by phone at 216-659-0473.