CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, who shot and killed an unarmed couple, was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter this Saturday.
The judge ruled in the police officer’s favor, following charges that stemmed from a one-sided shootout that took place on Nov. 29, 2012. The shootout resulted in police killing two unarmed people.
Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell acknowledged that Brelo fired lethal shots at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, but that Brelo was not solely responsible because he was not the only officer who shot at the couple.
O’Donnell also ruled that Brelo was not guilty of the accompanying felonious assault charge because he believed he was legally justified in using deadly force.
Brelo was one of 100 police officers who participated in a 22-minute chase, and one of 13 who shot at the vehicle that contained Russell and Williams.
The prosecution pointed out that when other police stopped firing their weapons, Brelo got on top of the vehicle’s hood and continued shooting, straight down at Russell and Williams, killing them both, and argued that Brelo’s actions were unreasonable.
The defense countered with Brelo’s claim that he “feared for his life,” as he shot down at the two from the vehicle’s hood, and that he believed Russell and Williams had a gun, despite no shots being fired by either. No gun was found in possession of the couple or anywhere in their vehicle.
Five more police supervisors involved in the deadly shooting have been charged with dereliction of duty. The date for that trial has not been set.