137 Shots -or- Martin Luther King Jr. Was Right
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
There is a documentary on Netflix called 137 Shots which documents the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams at the hands of the Cleveland Police Department. Documents their deaths in a very, uh, let's be generous and use the term SLANTED manner.
The best, and most accurate, quote in the whole documentary was uttered by the deceased Martin Luther King Jr. Before his death, he said "Cleveland is a teeming cauldron of hostility." Unbeknownst to the producers, that's the line that silently guides the movie. Because I have lived in the Cleveland Area nearly my whole life, there was a lot omitted from 137 Shots. How do I know? Because I followed the story in real time.
I actually took notes during 137 Shots, like I was doing homework.
"Policing is a reflection of Society." That was the first quote that stood out. The producers were actively tying policing to "structural racism." Where was that quote uttered? That's where our story begins. That quote was from The Forum with Mansfield Frazier's show on NewsRadio 1100 WTAM. I am a talk radio addict and have never heard of The Forum. I can recite to you WTAM's weekday schedule almost from memory.
After a cursory amount of research, I found out that Mansfield Frazier passed away a few months ago. His brief Sunday Night slot was replaced by random iHeart Radio Podcasts. Mansfield Frazier was also editor of the Black Newspaper Call and Post.
By all accounts Mansfield Frazier was a good man, but Mansfield Frazier was not a centrist. He was on the far left of the political spectrum.
Editor's Note I: Let me reset where I stand for our readers. I stand with Ken Burns. Ken Burns would have NEVER done 137 Shots the way the producers did.
“If you are there influencing the very fact of (the documentary) getting made, it means that certain aspects that you don’t necessarily want in aren’t going to be in, period,” he said. “And that’s not the way you do good journalism…and it’s certainly not the way you do good history, my business.” - Variety
What triggered the police chase of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams? According to the movie, their car backfired right in front of the Justice Center as it sped by. You know how many times I've driven by the Justice Center in Cleveland in my life? Maybe 500 times.
The first question the producers should have asked: How common is a vehicle backfire? I can't even remember the last time I heard a car backfiring in traffic. You know how old and shitty your car has to be to be backfiring?
So the movie makers set up the premise that their car "coincidentally" backfired right in front of the Justice Center, between 20-30 yards from a Cleveland Police officer, going at a high rate of speed? The very premise is implausible. Their insistence on the backfire is based on the fact that no weapon was found inside of a bullet ridden car.
The resulting police chase covered 23 miles. The documentarians said that Russell and Williams had to be unarmed because no one could find the supposed weapon across a 23 mile search. Could the Cleveland Police comb every inch of 23 miles worth of real estate to find a gun? Also implausible.
Editor's Note II: When I worked at Iron Mountain, we lost a bright blue box, about the size of a briefcase, in broad daylight, on East 13th in Cleveland near the intersection of East 13th and Euclid.
Immediately after the box was lost, everyone at our branch scoured a 20 block radius, on foot, looking for that brightly colored box. Nothing.
Luckily one of the security cameras on a neighboring building caught the box falling off the back bumper of the van on video. But unfortunately we didn't see the footage until a week after it happened. That box was scooped up by a car, whose license plate wasn't visible, within 30 seconds of hitting the ground.
That chase lasted 23 minutes. That is some real easy math, 23 miles in 23 minutes means Timothy Russell was driving 60 mph through the streets of Cleveland. So Russell and Williams tore through the streets of Cleveland because their car backfired? Also implausible.
Pulitzer winner Connie Schultz popped up on screen and said there were a lot of holes in the officers' stories during the police chase that involved dozens of police cars and dozens of rotating officers. Uh, there was already a lot of holes in the backfiring car story that Schultz, an award winning journalist, seemed to miss.
Multiple officers reported seeing a gun out the back window. Since no gun was found, the producers concluded the officers must be lying.
"...at one time speeds reached 125 mph..."
Editor's Note III; We are never getting through this article. Have you ever been in a car doing 125 mph? When I was a young man, I was a passenger in a car doing 105 mph in rural Minnesota. I cannot even IMAGINE going 125, or even 60 for that matter, in the streets of downtown Cleveland, where there are traffic lights every couple of hundred yards.
So you want me to believe that Russell and Williams were tearing through the streets of Cleveland because their car backfired and they were afraid the cops were going to randomly beat them because they had an old model car? Let's just hypothetically say that I believe that premise.....
If you look at the distances and the times of the most direct routes, you'll notice that the chase obviously did not take the most direct route to escape cops, they were literally going in circles, winding their way through the neighborhoods.
And let's say I shot at a cop at the Justice Center (I didn't but hear me out.) I spend half my work day on Google Maps, I ain't takin' the Russell and Williams Escape Route, their route was pure suicide. There's access points to nearly every highway within 2 miles of the Justice Center. Their escape route proved they were either maniacs or high on drugs. A simple toxicology report would have established their state of mind.
Oh, glossed over in the documentary: Russell and Williams were high on drugs.
The head of the police chase is quoted "they should have stopped."
Yeah, duh. Common sense, right? Then came the montages of cops beating on citizens.
After 20 minutes, Police Union Head Steve Loomis finally showed up to state the cops' side of the story, well after Timothy Russell's Wedding Video was played and Russell's Family said that Timothy Russell was a good man, with very sporadic "issues."
Who made this? Make it Plain Productions.
After 30 minutes, ahhh, the magic words: Tamir Rice.
Now the producers were setting up a pattern of behavior for the Cleveland Police Department.
Did the producers set up a pattern of criminal behavior for Russell and Williams?
They did not. Does that exist? It sure does. Here's a partial list at cleveland.com.
If I had 40 people on a documentary crew, I would send at least one of them down to the Cleveland Court House for the more expansive and complete list.
35 minutes in, the Black child/White police officer narrative.
"Tamir was blameless" - Tamir's Mom.
Editor's Note IV: Sorry to say, Tamir, nor his Mom, were blameless. Now listen, in the case of Tamir Rice, the cop shot way too quickly and treated Tamir's Sister terribly. But every time a person asks "where was a 12 year old's parents?" They are treated like it's'not a valid question. In the case of Tamir RIce, there was blame in about 8 different directions, including police dispatchers. Tamir Rice was not an innocent kid quietly walking down the street, minding his own business. He was waving, what appeared to be a real gun, at neighbors in a park.
I am being dead serious now. If you went to your local park, a half mile down the road from your home, and saw a 12 year old waving a gun at you in your own neighborhood, are you:
(a) Approaching that kid and telling him to put the gun down.
(b) Ignoring that kid and leaving.
(c) Calling the cops.
In the age of school shootings, what is your answer?
Tamir Rice's Mom "accountability."
Loomis' Assistant "accountability."
Before the irony of both parties using the same word sank in, a new layer of facts against the cops was introduced.
Black police officer John Jordan was randomly harassing Malissa? Immediately before the backfire at the Justice Center, John Jordan, in an unmarked car, pulled over Russell and Williams for a turn signal violation. The producers pointed to Jordan's stop as further evidence against the cops.
Using the producers' own revelation, I would think that Jordan's traffic stop gave Russell and WIlliams MOTIVE to shoot at an officer at the Justice Center. Not according to producers, who seemed to allude to a Jordan/Brelo plan to execute Cleveland citizens.
By the 45th minute, there was clearly a conspiracy of ineptitude, but not what the producers were selling you.
It was a miracle that Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams didn't kill any innocent bystanders or motorists on the streets of Cleveland. A frickin' miracle. If it was 11:24 AM, instead of 11:24 PM, I guarantee you that a dozen innocent citizens would have died in that chase.
It was a miracle that the Cleveland Cops didn't kill each other. A frickin' miracle. The producers focused on the circular firing squad. Only hundreds of action movies and cartoons in the history of media have addressed what happens when you shoot guns in a circle.
At the 55 minute mark, the producers talked about "this nation's original sin." Now the documentary is really off track.
Editor's Note V: Not that far from where Russell and Williams' chase ended in a hail of bullets, there's the old Huron Hospital. Huron Hospital closed in 2011. Right before it closed my cousin interned there before becoming a nurse.
He sat in my living room and I asked him, "how do you like interning at Huron?"
"Fred, it's the craziest thing I have ever done in my life. 14 year old girl comes in with a broken arm, we drug test her, positive for cocaine. 80 year old grandma comes in with chest pains, we drug test her, positive for cocaine. City Worker comes in with a work related injury, we drug test him, positive for cocaine. I'm not even talking about alcohol or pot, I'm talking next level drugs, 75% of the patients were either on Cocaine or Heroin.
I don't know how you keep a hospital open like that, and I don't know how your run a city like that."
At the 1 hour mark, Michael Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in relation to the deaths of Russel and Williams. The producers obviously didn't agree. Logistically, if 137 shots were fired, and Brelo supposedly emptied his gun after all the other officers fired, You couldn't legally prove Brelo is the one who fired the fatal shots into the formerly fleeing suspects.
They should have charged Brelo with abuse of a corpse, it would have been an easier threshold to prove in a court of law. More notes:
- The producers talked about Brelo in Iraq, insinuating he may have PTSD, and lamented the militarization of police.
- About an hour and a quarter in, the producers obviously had enough of the "Blue Wall." Cop after cop claimed they were scared for their lives during the chase:
"If you're scared, get another job" - Mansfield Frazier
- The Dept of Justice in 2015 obviously liked my Benny Hill Gif:
"(Cleveland) - fix this or we will."
- The filmmakers took aim at the White Conservatives in the suburbs for their support of the police.
- I believe it was Union Boss Loomis that uttered this spot on quote:
"You cannot reform the police enough to take care of decades of social decay."
- I really didn't like Prosecutor Tim McGinty, then idiots showed up on his front lawn and I felt bad for him.
- 3 years after the shooting, Brelo and 6 others cops were fired after their lengthy suspensions.
- At the one and a half hour mark, another montage of other police shootings.
- Loomis admitted cops were "Unable to to do 'proactive' policing." The producers acted like it was a 'gotchya' moment. They should have been embarrassed. If the Cleveland Police was properly funded, proactive policing may have averted such situations.
Editor's Note VI: If you had ANY questions as to the philosophy of the production team, they pulled back the curtain when they slowed the pace of the narrative way down for effect and talked about White Supremacy itself while the screen focused on a Trump Banner. The Cleveland that hosted the police chase was a specific slice of time in 2012, Donald Trump, in 2012, was a political independent who considered running against Barack Obama in the DEMOCRAT primaries.
The Cleveland that hosted the Republican National Convention was in 2016. The producers squeezed in a non-linear sound bite of Trump screaming:
"How great is our police and how great is the Cleveland RNC convention!"
In 2016, Donald Trump was a right-leaning populist who would say anything to get elected.
In 2000, Donald Trump was a Reform Party populist who would say anything to get elected.
In the year 2012, Donald Trump had absolutely NOTHING to do with what happened with Russell and Williams.
-Malissa's brother rolled out with this quote:
"14 of us, Grandma raised us, Malissa was an excellent kid."
-I am the same age Timothy Russell would have been if he had lived. If I was trolling the streets of Cleveland, married and in my 40's, in the middle of the night with a homeless woman, my family wouldn't be so eager to talk on camera.
-5 cops were reinstated to the Cleveland Police, but not Brelo, who rolled out with this quote:
"Kinda reminds me of Iraq."
-Another montage of police charges dismissed.
-More White Cop, Black Citizen themes.
-The movie finished with a different RFK quote than at the beginning and Mansfield Frazier riding away on a motorcycle.
The only thing I wouldn't change about this documentary is the music. Matter did a nice, professional job. She is active in the Black Lives Matter movement.
If you simply took the movie at face value, you're screaming at your monitor that the Cleveland Police got away with murder.
But they didn't.
Do you know how much in wrongful death payouts came from the City of Cleveland? In the case of Tamir Rice, the city of Cleveland paid $6 million ($5.5 million to Tamir Rice's estate, $250,000 to Tamir's mother and $250,000 to Tamir's sister.)
In the case of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, the city of Cleveland paid $3 million to the two families, which was split evenly.
Just because Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter doesn't mean there weren't consequences. You're saying that the families didn't get enough money? It is when the cases were more complex than what was presented in 137 Shots.
We are going to circle back to the very, very beginning. Do you know who the most popular local talk show host in Cleveland has been for the last 25 years? I could argue that it was 1100 WTAM's Mike Trivisonno (who also died late last year.) I can hear the echo of his voice that he could be heard in 38 states and half of Canada. Five days a week on workday evenings, he bragged about being #1 in the Cleveland radio ratings books since before the turn of the millennium. In the year 2020, he was ranked the #64th most powerful talk show host in America. By the end of his life, MIke Trivisonno clearly leaned to the right.
I listened to Cleveland "Super Cop" James Simone on Triv's show about a dozen times. 137 Shots gave Simone about 30 seconds of cop rebuttal. James Simone has been shot, stabbed, and run over in the line of duty.
If a production company sympathetic to the Cleveland Police made a documentary and based it around Mike Trivisonno, Steve Loomis and James Simone, they could've used the same exact people, but edited the film in a different way. The new version of that documentary could be called Streets Gone Wild and it would focus on the deterioration of the City of Cleveland in statistics:
Crime Statistics: Top 10 Most Dangerous City
Population Loss: Top 5 in America
Poverty Level: Poorest Big City in America
Drug Statistics: Top 5 Worst State for Overdoses
Instead of the 'cops behaving badly' montages on 137 Shots, Streets Gone Wild would have citizens behaving badly montages. Every person who spoke on camera would have their criminal history scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Every person referenced, both dead and alive, would get the same treatment. There would be clips of Loomis talking to Triv and then clips of Mayor Frank Jackson refusing to talk to Triv.
Editor's Note VII: (We haven't been fans of Trivisanno at Beacon of Speech in a long time.)
In Streets Gone Wild, all viewpoints unsympathetic to the cops would be trimmed to 30 seconds. There would be more focus on the Republicans on the state level being frustrated with the Democrat politicians in the City of Cleveland that don't fix the basic problems of their own city. The Democrat President at the time, Barack Obama, would also be partially held responsible for the shooting.
YOU SEE HOW THAT WORKS???
And don't forget the Libertarian perspective, which is even if they shot at police, Russell and Williams didn't deserve to be executed. There are simple police reform policies advanced by Libertarians that are just ignored by both the left and the right.
And what would Jesus say? I am confident that Jesus would be very disappointed that 2 people on the fringes of society were exterminated instead of saved.
If I made the documentary of the police chase? It would be called 2 Drug Addicts & the Keystone Cops. My documentary would have cast a negative light on just about everyone, like the cast of malcontents in the Tiger King. Well, except for James Simone, he encapsulates something I have written about on a dozen occasions: Being a big city cop is a nightmare.
137 Shots wasn't a documentary, it was propaganda.
Editor's Note VIII; Today January 2, 2021!!!
"Cleveland is a teeming cauldron of hostility." - Martin Luther King Jr.
This is the cover of left-leaning cleveland.com right now, just a normal day in Cleveland.
This is one of the lead stories at the NATIONAL, right-leaning Daily Mail, also right now.
Criminals have declared war in (Cleveland).
Addendum: October 1, 2022
I have an account at Rotten Tomatoes and attempted to review 137 Shots for the website right after it came out. RT was glitchy and wouldn't accept my critique.
After Clerks 3 come out, I left my thoughts at RT and then remembered my issues with 137 Shots. Again had issues with RT, specifically on the 137 Shots page, but this time I was able to leave a brief review "propaganda-pure and simple."
When I went back later in the day, this popped up: