Last week it was announced that there would be settlement in the federal lawsuit between the estates of Malissa Williams and the estate of Timothy Russell against the City of Cleveland in the shooting death from November 2012. There were some toxic comments made by the Police Union throughout this process and again last week when the settlement was announced.
We have a bias since both of the individuals killed by the police had experiences with being homeless and Michelle, Tim's sister, is a member of the NEOCH Board of Trustees. We have hosted meetings with the police commander regarding this issue and the impact on homeless people. And as citizens of this community, we were shocked by the militarization of a simple police chase that ended with the execution of two unarmed individuals. We know that both individuals had large extended families who were all providing input into this lawsuit. There was disagreement with executors and family and extended family over who should speak for the two people killed in a desolate area of East Cleveland. We know that the Williams' family were living on the edge and had a great deal of experience with poverty and have immediate pressing needs. NEOCH had similar issues in the 1990s when we tried to settle a federal lawsuit involving three homeless people were dumped. It is really hard to get all these individuals all on the same page and make policy changes. These disagreements and the immediate needs of some of the parties made any settlement difficult. Below is the statement issued by the Russell family members including our board member Michelle.
The statement released Sunday evening by Paul Cristallo, attorney for the Russell family, said the following:
“From the day the Cleveland Police shot and killed Tim Russell, his family has been suffering. Tim’s father Dave, his sister Michelle, his brothers David Jr., Donald, Michael, as well as their spouses and children, lost a beloved family member in a gruesome execution that became a public spectacle. The Russell family did not ask for this tragedy nor the publicity that has come with it.
Rather than be able to deal with Tim’s death in a private and personal manner, the Russell family was put in a position of having to deal with the media, investigators, community activists, government officials, and, of course, public opinion.
Before Tim’s body was laid to rest, the Russell family has had to deal with disparaging and hurtful comments. People who never knew Tim or Melissa posted tasteless, racist and mean spirited comments about them and their families. Yet as awful as many of those comments were, the Russell family has always appreciated that ignorant people exist, the internet allows people to hide behind anonymity, and that the only judgment that matters is the one that comes from God.
The Russell family’s strength and faith does not, however, make them impervious to insults.
Prior to any relevant facts regarding the shooting coming to light, the police representatives were calling this a “good shooting”. The police involved in the pursuit and shooting were lauded by union representatives as “heroes." We now know they were wrong. It is clear that Officer Michael Brelo, Police Supervisors and any of the Cleveland Police involved with the November 29, 2012 pursuit and shooting were not heroes; far from it. Mayor Frank Jackson, Attorney General Michael DeWine, Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, the U.S. Department of Justice Investigators and countless members of the community who appreciate what it means to shoot two unarmed people 137 times recognize that Tim and Melissa’s killing was a horrible tragedy.
It is apparent, however, that the Cleveland police union representatives are going to continue in their desperate attempt to spin this tragedy into anything other than a complete debacle by some members of the Cleveland Police. They have committed to a public relations campaign that is simply baffling and will, ultimately, further alienate the Cleveland Police from the community they are hired to protect.
Evidence the most recent comments by union counsel and now defense attorney Mr. Pat D’Angelo. Apparently it wasn’t enough for the police union to denigrate Tim and Melissa while praising their (now disciplined or indicted) members for the unlawful pursuit and shooting. Tim and Melissa’s families are now being accused of being in it for the money and not having a relationship with the deceased.
Tim Russell had a close and loving relationship with his immediate and extended family. Tim regularly attended church with his family and was one of the founding members of “From Darkness to Light”, a registered charity which assists homeless people. His family loved him beyond words and they suffer his loss every day. Disparaging Tim’s relationship with his family or impugning their motives isn’t based in reality. It’s nothing more than disrespectful spin. It’s another ill-advised comment which is meant to distract and insulate the Cleveland Police from taking responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings.
For police representatives or their attorneys to continue to make inaccurate, mean spirited statements in this regard, it tells us more about their motives than anyone else’s. Regardless of your opinion relative to how the Cleveland Police handled this situation, and regardless of your judgments of Tim and Melissa, you don’t know how their families have suffered or what is in their hearts.”
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