Killed in a hail of 137 bullets

Gary Hunter reports on an appalling murder committed by the Cleveland police.

Family members of Malissa Williams protest her murder by Cleveland policeFamily members of Malissa Williams protest her murder by Cleveland police

TWO CLEVELAND residents were gunned down by police in a hail of 137 bullets after a high-speed chase through the city. Anti-police violence activists said the barrage of gunfire was like a scene out of the movie Bonnie and Clyde.

The chase began around 10:30 p.m. on November 29 when police began pursuing 43-year-old Timothy Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams as they drove through downtown Cleveland. When the chase ended in front of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland, the 13 officers opened fire. The Cuyahoga Medical Examiner reported that Timothy was struck by 23 bullets, and Malissa was hit by 24.

Police initially claimed the two victims had fired shots at them, first near a parking lot security gate at the Justice Center downtown and then during the chase. However, no gun or shell casings were found in the car, and Cleveland Police Chief Mike McGrath confirmed that bullet holes found in the police cars came from police weapons.

McGrath also admitted that 12 of the 13 cops where white and one was Latino--both victims were African American.

Family members believe the "shots" police claim to have heard was Timothy's 1979 Chevrolet Malibu SS backfiring. David Russell Jr. had given the car to his brother, Timothy, a few months earlier and explained to local news media that it "had a bad muffler."

While Timothy and Malissa's families are in a state of shock, the community is demanding answers about yet another police murder of two unarmed Blacks.

Recordings of police radio transmissions reveal that officers were ordered to abandon the chase five minutes before they emptied their weapons at the two victims. In response to a dispatcher's question as to whether officers heard the order, one cop responded: "Yeah, but this is in our patch here, so that's why we're just gonna try to see what's going on."

It has also come to light that four of the cops involved have a history of violent confrontations.

While all 13 police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, nevertheless claimed, "Our officers did a great job."

The sense of outrage and pain is palpable in the community, but people are determined to fight back and make a stand against police brutality and racism.

On December 3, community activist Art McCoy of Black on Black Crime led almost 70 protesters to the hill outside Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland, near the site where Malissa and Timothy were murdered.

In addition to Black on Black Crime, other community and activist groups, such as Oppressed Peoples' Nation and the New Black Panthers, joined the rally, alongside relatives of Malissa and Timothy--including Malissa's uncle, who spoke at the rally, and her cousins and nieces, aged 8 and 10.

Activists demanded to know "Where is Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson?" and focused on how an entire racist system needs to be changed. Oppressed Peoples' Nation Chairman Ernest Smith explained. "The police are supposed to protect and serve, but all they do is Patrol and Control. These murderers must be brought to justice."

The groups involved in the protest, together with other community members, are planning a march from East Cleveland to downtown Cleveland in the near future.