Michael Brelo, the Cleveland cop that climbed onto a hood of a car involved in a chase and fired shots into the windshield killing its unarmed occupants, has been acquitted of manslaughter charges. Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot and killed in November of 2012, with authorities unloading 137 bullets into the vehicle.
The verdict came down this morning (May 23) with Brelo being found not guilty of two charges of voluntary manslaughter in the Nov. 29, 2012 incident. Coverage of the case by local outlets pointed out the excessive nature of Brelo’s actions and the fact that the occupants may have already been dead by the time he fired his weapon. As reported by Cleveland.com, the judge in the case noted the fact that Brelo’s shots weren’t the only ones to be aimed at Russell and Williams.
Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell said that while Brelo did fire lethal shots at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, other officers did as well.
O’Donnell also concluded that Brelo was not guilty of the lesser included offense of felonious assault because he was legally justified in his use of deadly force.
Brelo, 31, was one of more than 100 police officers to participate in a 22-minute police chase, and one of 13 who shot at a 1979 Chevy Malibu. The shooting ended in the deaths of the driver, Russell and the passenger, Williams.
Brelo’s defense team argued that if the other 12 officers were within rights to use deadly force after they said a gunshot appeared from Russell’s vehicle, then Brelo was also within rights to use deadly force. Prosecutors argued that Brelo went over and beyond his rights in gunning down Russell and Williams.
Last fall, the families of Russell and Williams were giving settlements from the city equaling $3 million in total. There was also a wrongful death suit filed that was settled for an unspecified amount.
All eyes are on the Ohio city after the cases of Tamir Rice and other similar cases of seemingly imbalanced uses of forces by white police officers against Black people.