By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Cleveland will pay $3 million to resolve claims brought by the families of a man and woman shot dead after a high-speed police chase in 2012 that involved dozens of officers and nearly 140 rounds fired, a local probate judge ruled on Tuesday.
The estates of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell will receive nearly $900,000 each from the settlement that resolves a federal lawsuit against the police department and Mayor Frank Jackson, attorneys for the estates said in a statement.
The judge awarded 40 percent of the settlement to the attorneys for the estates.
"The city settled this case with the plaintiffs to resolve the lawsuit and avoid drawn-out litigation," Cleveland spokesman Dan Williams said, adding that the settlement was not an acknowledgment of liability.
Williams and Russell were killed in November 2012 after a 25-minute, 22-mile chase that started in downtown Cleveland on reports of shots fired from Russell's car and reached speeds of up to 110 miles per hour before it ended in East Cleveland.
Sixty-four officers were disciplined as a result of the chase in which 13 officers fired 137 rounds into a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu that Russell was driving with Williams as a passenger, killing them.
Officers reported multiple shots fired from Russell's car, but investigators did not find a weapon in the car or along the chase route. State investigators concluded the sounds were most likely of the Malibu's engine backfiring and not gunshots.
"The important part of this settlement isn't the number, it is what kind of reform can we bring to prevent this ever occurring again," said attorney David Malik, who represents the estate of Williams.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury in May indicted Officer Michael Brelo on two counts of voluntary manslaughter and five supervisors on misdemeanor charges of dereliction of duty.
Investigators determined that Brelo had fired 49 of the 137 rounds. Brelo fired at least 15 rounds, including fatal shots, while standing on the hood of the Malibu and shooting through the windshield after the car was stopped and other officers had ceased firing, prosecutors said. His trial has not been set.
The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the Cleveland Police Department at the request of Mayor Jackson to determine whether there is a pattern of excessive force.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by David Bailey and Mohammad Zargham)