November 29, 2012: Around 10:30 p.m. that night, CPD Officer John Jordan ran the plates on Russell and Williams’ 1979 Chevy Malibu, which was parked on Lakeside Avenue. Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, who were both homeless, had met at a shelter. Russell had previous convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery, while Williams had been convicted for drug-related charges and attempted abduction. Russell was also driving on a suspended license. Acquaintances say they were most likely in the area searching for drugs.
Although the search on the car came back clean, Jordan attempted to pull Russell over for a turn signal violation between Rockwell and Superior. Russell stopped briefly. Jordan claims he was screaming and acting unstable. Russell drove away when Jordan exited his vehicle. The reason he did this is unknown. Jordan briefly pursued the vehicle, but was not involved in the later chase. According to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, there is no evidence that any of the other officers involved in the chase knew of Jordan’s prior involvement with the vehicle.
Russell and Williams then passed by the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, where two officers, Officer Vasile Nan and Officer Alan Almeida, who were driving nearby reported, that they heard a bang that they thought was a gunshot. Several other individuals in the area, including detectives, a security guard and a parking attendant also heard the noise and believed it to be a gunshot. A later report from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations concluded that the sound was most likely the car backfiring.
The chase moved along Interstate 90, at times hitting over 100 miles per hour. Multiple attempts to stop the vehicle were not successful. According to surveillance videos, at least 62 police cars were involved in the chase. Dispatches from during the chase show that the officers believed that the passenger of the car was armed and had already fired at officers and pursuers. They also showed that at least some officers were at one point asked to “terminate the pursuit.”
The chase ended in the parking lot of the Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland. Police cars surrounded the Malibu, with others blocking the road. Officer Wilfredo Diaz fired the first shots at Williams after he saw her holding a black object that he thought was a gun. After telling her to “stop,” Diaz fired between and one and three times at her. The car then started accelerating towards Diaz, prompting him to fire his gun one to three more times at the driver, Russell.
The vehicle then continued to accelerate towards the exit, but was blocked by a police car containing Officers Robert Radosevic and Scott Sistek. Sistek, seeing the car coming towards him and afraid of being hit, fired at Russell before diving out of the way of the vehicle, which then hit Sistek’s car on the passenger side door.
The next officer to fire was Officer William Salupo, who saw Sistek fall to the ground and believed that he had been run-over by the Malibu. He fired two shots through the back vehicle of the window, towards the driver. After that, multiple officers began firing, believing that a shoot-out was occurring between police and Russell. The shooting lasted for approximately 17.8 seconds. During this time, Russell and Williams were both killed. Russell was shot 23 times, and Williams was shot 24 times.
Thirteen total officers fired their guns, according to East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts, with 137 total shots fired. Twelve of the officers were white and one was Hispanic. Brelo fired approximately 49 shots, more than double any other officer. Brelo reportedly continued to fire after the other officers stopped, standing on the hood of the car and shooting downward through the windshield at close range. As later argued during Brelo’s trial, it is possible that Russell and Williams were already dead before this occurred.
Investigation later revealed that there was no weapon present in Russell and Williams’ car.