Thursday, December 13, 2012

Special Prosecutor Called for in Deadly Police Pursuit Case

Ohio ACLU Says State's Attorney General Should Remove County Sheriff and East Cleveland Police from Investigating Nov. 29 chase that ended in 137 Bullet Fusillade

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called yesterday called upon Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to appoint a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into the 25 minute police chase involving 30 police vehicles that ended with 13 police officers firing 137 rounds and killing two unarmed people.

The ACLU’s letter also asked DeWine to remove the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and the East Cleveland Police Department from the investigation because their personnel were involved in the pursuit. Currently the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation [BCI] is conducting a joint investigation with the county sheriff and the East Cleveland police. The results are slated to be turned over to Timothy McGinty, the county's newly elected county prosecutor.

While not criticizing the agencies already involved in the investigation, the letter from ACLU Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman said, “putting local law enforcement in charge of investigating themselves is clearly not the best way to conduct an independent, impartial inquiry.”

This would undoubtedly be a case that could in large measure define McGinty’s tenure almost from its inception. The ACLU thinks that is too large a burden to place upon an office — McGinty’s — that works with local law enforcement everyday.

Citing as precedent Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson’s appointment of retired judge [now County Council president] C. Ellen Connally as special prosecutor to investigate five cases that resulted in fatalities, including the shooting of 15-year old Brandon McCloud, Hardiman said the appointment of a special prosecutor would give “this investigation the weight it deserves.”

The ACLU of Ohio has weighed in on the side of several local officials and organizations that have called for special scrutiny in this investigation. Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, within whose district the chase occurred, has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights, asking for an independent investigation by the FBI. The mayors of Cleveland and East Cleveland, in whose respective cities the chase began and ended, have urged similar action, as have local civil rights organizations.

*A spokesman for Attorney General is expected to get back to us this afternoon with a response to our query as to when the A.G. might respond to the ACLU’s call for the appointment of a special prosecutor and the removal of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff and East Cleveland police from the investigation. We will update this post at that time.

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