Cleveland, Ohio, November 6, 2014: The City of Cleveland will pay $3,000,000.00 to the families of Melissa Williams and Timothy Russell, the unarmed couple chased and killed by Cleveland police on November 29, 2012. The settlement is one of the highest ever paid by the Cleveland police on a claim of excessive force. The two victims were targeted with 137 bullets as they sat in their car. Six officers are currently under a criminal indictment for their actions that night.
The shooting was covered by news outlets worldwide and investigated thoroughly by the Ohio Attorney General. Through the investigation and litigation a number of facts emerged that made the shooting particularly tragic for the families.
- The police chase started when the couple’s vehicle backfired, a noise that was incorrectly perceived as a gunshot. Additional backfires during the chase were observed by officers but not used to reevaluate the incorrect assumption that the couple had shot at the police.
- Timothy Russell had stopped the vehicle before 121 of the shots had been fired. The couple was offered no opportunity to exit the car;
The families eagerly await the results of the ongoing civil rights investigation of the Cleveland Police by the United States Department of Justice. They are hopeful that meaningful reforms regarding use of force and officer accountability will follow.
Attorneys for the Williams family are David Malik, Al Gerhardstein and Tyrone Reed. Attorneys for the Estate for the Russell Family are Terry Gilbert, Gordon Friedman, and Richard Perez. The Russell Family members are represented by Paul Cristallo. Collectively the attorneys stated, “This shooting is one of the worst examples of police misconduct in American history. This settlement sends the clearest signal yet that real reform must be achieved inside the Cleveland Police Department.” The settlement concluded a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit that was pending in the United States District Court in Cleveland. Judge Aaron Polster met with the parties and mediated the settlement.