Cleveland residents angry over police shooting

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Cleveland residents are expressing anger over the minimal information released in the deaths of two people killed in a barrage of 137 bullets fired by Cleveland police.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (http://bit.ly/TkljID ) that some of the 175 people who went to a community meeting at an East Cleveland high school on Friday night were family members who wondered aloud why they haven't gotten more details about the deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30.

The two were killed Nov. 29 in a hail of gunfire in a middle school parking lot in East Cleveland. Thirteen Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots at the car following a high-speed chase that began after officers were responding to the sound of a gunshot near police headquarters.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner said Russell was hit 23 times, and Williams 24.

No weapon or shell casings were found inside their vehicle, drawing sharp criticism from their family and others who say the shooting clearly was unjustified.

Officers have said the driver rammed a patrol car and nearly hit an officer, making the use of force necessary.

They said that Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is helping the East Cleveland Police Department investigate the shooting.

"Investigators are keeping quiet hoping people will calm down, and down the road the case will be whitewashed," said Earnest Harris, president of community group Black on Black Crime. "But the truth about this is 13 officers fired 137 shots at two people who didn't have firearms."

Harris attended Friday's community meeting, where East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton, East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts and NAACP president-elect Rev. Hilton Smith urged those in attendance to be patient with the ongoing investigation.

They answered questions from residents and family members of Williams and Russell, including whether the officer involved in the initial chase has been interviewed by investigators and why a helicopter was not used during the chase.

Spotts said that the officer had been questioned, but was not one of the shooters.

He said that Cleveland's police helicopter was grounded because no one trained to fly it was available at the time.

"(But) even if the helicopter had been up in the air, I'm not sure it would have helped," he said.

Smith said he met with Williams' family on Friday.

"We said we are there for them, and we won't let this thing pass," he said. "I've gotten calls around the country, and they said this is one on the toughest situations they've ever seen."

Alonzo Winston, 61, of East Cleveland, said the shooting should have never happened since Cleveland police have been involved in police chases in the past.

"Haven't they learned from past mistakes?" Winston said. "They acted like Keystone Cops."

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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