CLEVELAND, Ohio — Two Cleveland police officers suspended after they mistook a human corpse for a dead deer spent hours sitting in a cemetery and a strip club parking lot when they reported they were still working high-priority calls or patrolling the city’s streets during the first four months of the year, a departmental investigation has found.
Between Jan. 1 and April 4, Patrolmen Matthew Prince and David Muniz spent more than 20 hours at the West Park Cemetery, more than three hours parked in the lot of Christie’s Cabaret in the Flats, and periods of time at Steelyard Commons and other locations.
The city recently released a 721-page report compiled by Internal Affairs detectives. The report is a combination of the officers’ statements, duty reports, news articles and auto vehicle locator reports — which show the movements of patrol cars.
The report does not indicate the officers ignored calls but showed they claimed to still be working calls when they were in the cemetery or elsewhere.
Public Safety Director Martin Flask suspended Prince and Muniz for six months without pay in May. Flask had the option of terminating them or suspending them up to 30 days. He said Tuesday the officers accepted the longer suspension to save their jobs.
Investigators found that Muniz and Prince worked together 46 days through April 4 of this year. Vehicle locator reports were available for 30 of those days, and they showed that the officers spent parts of 13 of those days sitting in their idling car but indicated through duty reports that they were working cases.
Their assignments ranged from code 1 calls — the highest priority — to patrolling designated sectors looking for trouble.
As a result of the incident, Chief Michael McGrath ordered supervisors to monitor the movements of patrol cars.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis said the officers made an honest mistake when they drove by the woman’s body. They believe there were people inside Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration who wanted the officers terminated.
Loomis said the records only indicate where the officers were, not what they were doing.
“Information like that can be taken out of context,” Loomis said. “In a lot of cases the reason for idle time involves police writing reports and doing police work like watching a dope house.
“Those are good hard working officers and their arrest records and awards they won show that.”
Loomis said the men are getting by and have found temporary jobs until they return to work in November. He credited Flask, McGrath and community leaders for helping the officers keep their jobs.
CPPA attorney Patrick D’Angelo said although the officers’ zone car sat idle for periods of time, they were always ready to be dispatched to locations whenever they received a call. He said historically officers have sat idle during slow time.
“It is fair to say that citizens expect officers to handle down time in a different manner, but these men are not bad people,” D’Angelo said.
About 4:30 a.m. on April 5, Muniz and Prince were dispatched to Interstate 90 on a report about a corpse on the highway. When they received the call the officers’ patrol car had been sitting in the West Park Cemetery for 1 hour and 5 minutes.
The officers drove past the dead body at more than 50 mph and called it in as a dead deer. They returned to the cemetery where the cruiser sat idle for another 59 minutes. An ODOT worker eventually reported the body at 6:19 a.m.
The woman, 28-year-old Angel Bradley-Crockett, had been beaten, strangled and robbed before her naked body was dumped along the highway.
Two people, Stephon Davis, 30, and Latesha Santos, 33, both of Cleveland, are charged with aggravated murder in the case. They are scheduled to appear in court today for a hearing. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.