It started for mundane reasons. Two Cleveland officers, David Siefer and James Hummel, wanted to stop a 1979 Chevy Malibu because they suspected that it held drugs. They claimed the driver failed to use a turn signal, which is all that’s needed these post-Whren days. Had the driver pulled over, this wouldn’t even be a footnote in the law. He didn’t, and a chase ensued.
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer :
There was no gun. Afterward, the police tried desperately to find a gun, going so far as to use metal detectors to check storm basins for a weapon that might have been tossed from the car. No gun. But once the call went out, adrenalin flowed.
Officers David Siefer and James Hummel were following the Malibu near Clark and Quigley avenues when they broadcast over police radio that they saw the passenger turn in her seat, get onto her knees and extend both arms toward the rear window as if she was holding a gun. They also thought the passenger was a man.
“He’s pointing the gun. He’s pointing the gun out the back window. Heads up. Heads up. Passenger is pointing a gun out the back window. Everybody be careful,” Siefer said.
Sixty-two officers joined in the chase, 59 of whom had no permission to do so and violated police policy. Whether they all wanted in on a big bust, or felt the need to protect their brother cops isn’t clear. What is clear is that the radio calls combined with the number of cops created a toxic situation that ended in the deaths of two people.