The White Cleveland police officer who was charged in the 2012 shooting death of two Black suspects, on whose vehicle cops fired 137 shots, was acquitted Saturday. The decision prompted tensions among residents and police to rise to a dangerous high.
Michael Brelo, 31, was cleared of two counts of voluntary manslaughter for jumping on top of a car carrying Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012 and shooting at the victims 15 times. This after, together with his colleagues, he fired on the vehicle more than 100 times following a 20-minute car chase.
Yes, you read that right.
But on Saturday, Cuyahoga County judge John P. O’Donnell declared Brelo not guilty, saying he acted within his constitutional rights.
It’s hard not to read police officers’ “constitutional rights” these days as a “license to kill Black people.”
Now, community and city leaders are bracing for unrest after tensions ran understandably high when the verdict was read. Protests began almost immediately after the news broke, with CNN reporting that cops were already blocking them.
According to the Associated Press, O’Donnell said he would not “sacrifice” Brelo if the evidence did not merit a conviction.
And apparently, to him, it did not.
From the AP:
Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, were each shot more than 20 times. While prosecutors argued they were alive until Brelo’s final salvo, medical examiners for both sides testified that they could not determine the order in which the fatal shots were fired.
Brelo has been on unpaid leave since he was indicted May 30, 2014.
The chase and shooting began when Russell’s car backfired as he sped past Cleveland police headquarters. Police officers and bystanders thought someone in the beat-up Chevy Malibu had fired a gun. More than 100 Cleveland police officers in 62 marked and unmarked cars got involved in a pursuit that saw speeds reach 100 mph during the 22-mile-long chase.
The shooting helped prompt an investigation by the Justice Department, which concluded that the city’s police department has engaged in a pattern of excessive force and brutality.
But it wasn’t enough to land a conviction. Both Russell and Williams were unarmed at the time of their death.
Cleveland remains in the news as the investigation of the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice at the hands of police is ongoing. The CHILD was holding a pellet gun at the time.