I-Team: Why couldn’t Cleveland police chase man who reportedly pulled gun on officers?

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered a firestorm after a man pulled a gun on Cleveland Police officers, and they were ordered not to chase him just one day after a funeral for an officer killed in the line of duty.

So we investigated.

Around midnight Sunday near West 50th Street and Denison Avenue, police radio tapes show officers called out about a man pointing a gun at them, but a boss said to let him go.

An officer can be heard saying, “Going eastbound on Denison. Packing a gun in his waist band.” But a supervisor responds with, “Terminate pursuit, terminate pursuit, terminate pursuit…. terminate pursuit.”

An officer on the street says, “He pointed the gun at us, again.” But, the supervisor responds again with, “Terminate pursuit. Acknowledge.”

Just a day and a half earlier, police had gathered for a funeral service to  say goodbye to Detective James Skernivitz. He had been shot and killed while working undercover. Three suspects face charges.

After the weekend incident, Cleveland Councilman Brian Kazy wrote to other councilmembers, saying in part, “We sit at the table and call for our police officers to be tougher on crime however, they are not allowed and are handcuffed by their superiors. What have we become if we don’t allow our police officers to actually police? What type of message are we as a City sending to unlawful individuals where they point a gun at police and are allowed to get away with it? Colleagues, we are at a moment in time where we must decide what type of City we want.”

Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer also spoke out.

“Violence is up in the City of Cleveland,” he said “Our homicide rate is up in the city of Cleveland. This needs to end. We need to put a stop to this. We need to start arresting bad guys.”

And this comes after we’ve shown you a series of cases lately with shots fired at Cleveland police. In fact, while the latest gun threat happened on the west side, someone this weekend fired shots at officers on the east side.

Cleveland police put strict rules in place on chases after one that started downtown back in 2012. An officer reported a possible shot fired at police from a passing car. That led to a police chase with dozens of officers involved. It ended with two suspects shot and killed.

Back to the latest case, the radio recordings also show an officer said, “Grabbed the gun out of his waistband with his left hand, turned around at us, and was about to shoot.”

The police chief’s office referred us to the Cleveland police pursuit policy, which, generally, limits chases to trying to catch violent felons and drunk drivers.

But, the I-Team obtained an email shared among councilmembers concerning the latest incident, and it shows Chief Calvin Williams shed some light on the decision not to allow officers to chase the man with the gun.

The council email says Williams wrote: “ It was a high performance motorcycle, not a car. I’m sure if the sergeant, thought that we could catch the suspect without killing another officer or citizen, it would have happened.”

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