Nine Cleveland Police Officers involved in a car chase that ended in a hail of 137 bullets, killing two unarmed African Americans, are suing the city and police officials alleging racial discrimination regarding the punishment they received.
The 2012 incident began when officers took pursuit of a speeding car they thought fired a gunshot at them. No weapon was ever found in the car.
An investigation later concluded that there were no gunshots, and that the noise may have resulted from the car backfiring.
43-year-old Timothy Russell and passenger Malissa Willaims, 30, were pronounced dead on sight.
The chase involved over 100 police officers and 60 cars, and one officer in particular fired a total of 49 shots at the car in the parking lot, including the final 15 rounds that were fired through the windshield. That officer, Michael Brelo, is facing two charges of voluntary manslaughter.
The chase lasted around 25 minutes and reached speeds of 110 mph.
In the wake of the shooting, the plaintiffs say they were placed on administrative leave for three days before reporting “to the gym” for a 45-day cooling off period.
Months later, most of them were permitted to return to full duty, but they were then ordered back on restrictive duty, in a move the lawsuit claims was “politically expedient.”
They remained on restrictive duty until June 2014 and say they missed out on potential wages and chances to apply for promotions and transfers, according to the lawsuit.
The nine plaintiffs, one Hispanic and eight Caucasian officers, allege their treatment was because of their race.
“The City of Cleveland, through the other named defendants, and the other named defendants in their individual capacities, have a history of treating non-African American officers involved in the shootings of African Americans substantially harsher than African American officers,” reads the lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
“A serious dichotomy exists as a result of the defendants’ longstanding practices and procedures which place onerous burdens on non-African American officers, including the plaintiffs, because of their race and the race of persons who are the subjects of the legitimate use of deadly force.”
The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.