Cleveland officer found not guilty for killing black pair

Police officer Michael Brelo found not guilty in deaths of two black people after car chase in Cleveland in 2012

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of two unarmed black people after a car chase in 2012.

Brelo (31) was charged for the deaths of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, as he fired 15 rounds into their windshield standing on the hood of their car after it stopped following a chase for speeding.

Judge John O'Donnell said the police officer acted justifiably as he perceived a threat and was in a difficult situation.

"He was in a strange place at night surrounded by gunfire, sirens and flashing bulbs,” the judge said.

The trial came at a time when the police came under scrutiny for their use of fatal force in their encounters with minorities after a series of black men killed at the hands of the police prompting protests nationwide.

Several of the well-known cases include the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York CIty and most recently Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland.

In Cleveland, a 12-year old black kid, Tamir Rice, was shot and killed by police while playing with a toy gun in November 2014.

The judge found Brelo not guilty of other charges, including aggravated assault, that he was indicted for shooting 49 rounds of total 137 shots fired by the police at the car.

Judge said prosecution could not prove without doubt that fatal shots were fired by Brelo as the victims Russell had 23 bullet wounds and Williams had 24.

After the decision, a group protested outside the court building chanting "No justice, no peace," and there was reaction in social media.

“We need sweeping, systemic changes in how our law enforcement works and interacts with the community. #BreloVerdict #Cleveland #OH11,” tweeted Democratic representative Marcia Fudge of Cleveland, Ohio.

"All I know is that I don't trust police no more. No police. None," Malissa Williams' brother Alfredo Williams said after the verdict.

"I can't recover from this. ...This verdict isn't real. This verdict is fake."

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson urged people to remain peaceful if they were to protest the decision.

In a statement shortly after the decision, Department of Justice (DOJ) said it would review the testimony and evidence from Brelo's trial.

Last year, a DOJ investigation found that Police Department in Cleveland showed a pattern of use of excessive force that violated civil rights for years.

TRTWorld and agencies