21 Cops Fire 137 Shots, Kill Couple, Community Outraged
by Abdul Qahhar (Cleveland)
Demonstrations protest police shooting in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Raj Roberson
Our struggle continues in Cleveland Ohio for justice for the police murders of Melissa Williams 30, and Timothy Russell, an unarmed Black couple whose car was shot into 137 times by 13 cops (12 white and one Hispanic) on November 29, 2012, after a high speed chase. One of the cops jumped on hood of the car and shot continuously through the roof reloading.
The cops claimed initially they were shot at by the car carrying the couple. But investigators from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office stated that no guns or bullet casings were found in the car. A security film showing the beginning of the chase reveals no flash or sound of gunfire. In later interviews, an officer said he observed the car and believed illegal drug activity was involved. And when he approached the car to investigate that the car took off.
The community has responded with marches, rallies, press conferences, open forums and graveside support. The Task Force for Community Mobilization, Self-Determination, Transformation and Community Empowerment, a coalition of more than 35 community groups, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a swift investigation of the November shootings by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Groups that make up the Task Force include the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Friends Service Committee, the Carl Stokes Brigade, the Immigrant Support Network, Peace in the Hood, the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the Shurah Council of Greater Cleveland (10 mosques), Black on Black Crime, the Oppressed Peoples Nation, Survivor and Victims of Tragedy, the Hip Hop Workshop and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The Black on Black Crime organization initiated a chant - after every ten count loudly shouting Reload, going to 100, that has been embraced by the people. In addition to rallies and meetings, it was used at a city council meeting.A young Cleveland Sister Speaks out against police terror.
After a two month investigation, Attorney General DeWine’s office concluded in a comprehensive report Feb. 5 that the shooting deaths of Mr. Russell and Ms. Williams in part were due to “a systematic failure in the Cleveland Police Department,” and was “a tragedy for all involved.”
In an attempt to rationalize the police murders, the report further states, that “this chase could have ended without tragic results if Timothy Russell had simply stopped the car in response to the police pursuit. Perhaps the alcohol and the cocaine in his system impaired his judgment.” However, the report does not highlight the fact that nine of the cops were involved in previous violence, including shootings; one just two months after the murder of Russell and Williams.
The DOJ held a Town Hall meeting in June on police misconduct and behavior where people spoke out about the police violence against Black people. However, the DOJ stated that the case had to go to the grand jury before they had any jurisdiction. Those officers are still on duty. Their weapons have not been taken away from them.
Here is the record of the police investigations conducted by the Cleveland Police Department. All 4,427 use-of-force investigations by police supervisors for the period January 2003 to September 2006 cleared the officers involved of wrongdoing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan. 14, 2007)
Several members of the Task Force have been investigated by the FBI, asking if they are aware of threats to retaliate against the police. However, this has not shaken these forces.
These murders are part of the War on Black America that is taking place throughout the country. It is a violation of Black people’s human rights. We must unite and use every power that we have to fight back. We want to connect with others across the country to help build a powerful movement for social justice, human rights and self-determination.