CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell held a press conference Friday afternoon to decry the latest of dozens of East Cleveland police pursuits to spill across the city limits, this time resulting in the death of a 46-year-old motorcycle driver.
Darrick “Slo Burn” Lee, 46, was killed Thursday night on his motorcycle after a pursuit by East Cleveland police.
The pursuit that resulted in his death marked the 150th time East Cleveland took part in a high-speed chase this year, East Cleveland police Chief Scott Gardner said. The chases have resulted in two deaths, numerous injuries and a slew of property damage,
The pursuits have divided the government of the inner-ring suburb. They also led to increased calls to abandon the practice that Gardner often posts flippant accounts of the chases on Facebook. The pursuits result in primarily minor criminal charges, according to a cleveland.com analysis of more than eight dozen pursuits that occurred in the first months of 2021. Many of the chases begin over minor traffic infractions and for things such as tinted windows and involve primarily Black drivers. And the majority of the chases happen in broad daylight, along busy streets and highways with pursuing officers chasing cars at high speeds for miles outside the East Cleveland city limits, often resulting in crashes that require neighboring communities to investigate.
Conwell held his press conference Friday at Glen Village near East 105th Street and Orville Avenue. Members of the Cleveland chapter of the Afro Dogs Motorcycle club, in which Lee was a member, were in attendance. East Cleveland City Councilman Ernest Smith and Black-on-Black Crime leader Al Porter Jr. also attended.
East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King and members of his police department received invites but did not attend.
Smith explained that East Cleveland invested in more reliable body cameras and soon will have a new device that police can attach to the car they are chasing that will allow them to track with GPS.
The city doesn’t have a date for when the new device will be issued.
“We have to bring in experts and get some experts opinions on these chases, although the experts may side with police.” Conwell said. “We have to create good legislation that can be managed correctly, and it should be a formal policy for the entire county.”
When asked, Lee’s friends said they don’t know why he didn’t pull over for police during the pursuit, but Reed said he doesn’t blame his friend because he probably wouldn’t stop for East Cleveland police given the document history of abusive police.
“They may try to kill you just for speeding, especially East Cleveland police who are known to be a corrupt police force,” Afro Dogs MC Cleveland’s Chapter Jay Reed said. “And police shouldn’t chase those riding motorcycles because it will only kill people.”
Gardner said that officers tried to stop Lee, who they said was driving recklessly. Lee was driving a 2004 Kawasaki motorcycle northbound on Hayden Avenue when he tried to pass a northbound 2017 Cadillac CT6. The Cadillac tried to make a left turn, and Lee’s motorcycle crashed into the side, police said.
Lee worked as a self-employed electrician who did work for restaurants, churches, and other buildings in Cleveland and the suburbs. He was a family man who spent a lot of time with his long-term girlfriend, his children, his grandchild and his brothers and sisters at the motorcycle club.
“You couldn’t get him off a motorcycle,” Reed said.
Reed did not attend the meeting but attended by speakerphone.
Reed said he first met the man he would come to know as “Slo Burn” by his brother over two years ago. Lee and Reed spent a lot of time together because Lee served as the club’s Sergeant at Arms.
“When you saw me, you saw him,” Reed said. “It was his job to protect me, and that’s what he did.”
Lee and Reed’s last trip together was nearly a week ago when they rode their bikes to Youngstown, Ohio. Club members took occasional long road trips to places like Detroit and cities in Indiana.
Lee’s bright personality brought love and structure to the club, his friends said. He was always on Facebook Live, having a good time at different events.
Maosha Vales was Lee’s club sister. They met 10 years ago at a social club, and they have been inseparable.
“He was a happy guy, always willing to help, and he was just a good spirit to be around,” Vales said. “You should have seen how happy he was when he was around his children.”
Vales remembers when Lee came to homeless park in Akron to help clean and serve food to the unhoused. Lee wanted to see people doing better.
Vales joked about how much Lee loved to ride that he would ride her bike around, even though it’s designed for a woman. The bike is gold and covered in golden glitter.
Reshard Roberts has been friends with Lee for over 20 years. They met through mutual friends at the social club, Slow Motion.
Roberts chuckled as he reminisced about some moments he spent with Lee.
“Everywhere we go, he had to get food,” Lee’s friend said. “He had to eat chicken wings or fish no matter where we went.”
Lee loved to ride, and he loved to ride fast, his friends said. He sometimes liked to show off for the crowd.
“Once, we were at a bike show, and there were some practice bikes around,” Roberts said. “So Slo Burn pumped everyone up to ride, but they didn’t know his plan was to beat them until he started doing laps around him.”
Lee also served as a mentor to the club. He would give members advice on relationships and offer guidance when they were going through hard times.