09:25 GMT30 November 2020
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    A Cleveland police officer who fired 49 shots into the windshield of a vehicle holding two unarmed men has been cleared on two counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of felonious assault. The verdict was set for a weekend to give time for police to prepare for a response.

    Michael Brelo, who entered the force in 2007 after a tour with the Marine Corp. in Iraq, was discharged. He later joined the Cleveland Police Department and, as an officer, once shot his gun 49 times at unarmed suspects.

    Cuyahoga County judge John P O’Donnell said prosecutors failed to prove without a reasonable doubt that bullets fired by Brelo killed Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, or that Brelo didn’t fear for his own life during the shooting that ended a high-speed car chase on Nov. 29, 2012.

    “The verdict should be no cause for a civilized society to celebrate or riot,” O’Donnell said after a reading of 10 pages from the 35-page verdict.

    Following the verdict, some African American spectators in the court house yelled, “No justice. No peace!”

    Sources told the Guardian that O’Donnell chose to deliver his verdict on a Saturday morning during a holiday weekend, and that he announced his decision after giving authorities enough time to prepare for potential unrest similar to the kind that erupted in  Ferguson, Miss. and Baltimore after cases involving police shootings.

    Brelo’s trial ended about three weeks ago, and it was decided by a judge who could conduct a strict legal interpretation of the case rather than one made by an emotionally-charged jury.

    The Nov. 2012 police chase involving Williams and Russell began after the suspect’s 1976 Chevy Malibu apparently backfired while passing police headquarters in downtown Cleveland making a noise that was mistaken for a gunshot.

    Williams and Russell ended up in a middle-school parking lot, when 13 officers fired 137 rounds into the car. Brelo fired 49 of those shots, 15 of which were delivered as he stood on the hood of his car.

    Even though a dozen other officers fired 88 bullets, only Brelo was charged.

    In the case, the prosecution had to prove that Brelo was not fearful for his own life or that of other officers, which would allow him to use deadly force. It also had to show that Brelo’s actions directly caused the deaths of Williams and Russell. Forensic science experts could not say with certainty that any of the bullets fired by Brelo were the deadly rounds.

    The prosecution’s expert witnesses testified that all shots fired were justifiable except for the 15 Brelo fired from on top of his car. These shots were the ones that led to Brelo’s charge. He could have avoided that charge had he delivered those 15 rounds with both feet on the ground.


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    police brutality, police shooting, Cleveland Police Department, John P O’Donnell, Michael Brelo, Ohio, Cleveland
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