(CLEVELAND) — A judge Saturday deemed a Cleveland police officer not guilty in the shooting deaths of an unarmed couple in 2012, an incident that involved a high-speed chase and a hail of bullets.
Michael Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and a lesser charge of felonious assault for the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. He was visibly emotional as Cuyahoga County Judge John P. O’Donnell read a portion of the verdict in open court.
Prosecutors alleged that Brelo was one of 13 officers who fired a total of 137 bullets into their car in the November 2012 shooting, but O’Donnell ruled that his entire use of deadly force was constitutionally reasonable..
The 22-mile, high-speed chase through Cleveland began when an officer tried pulling over Russell for a turn signal violation. His car backfired while speeding away, causing officers to think someone in the car had fired a gun.
Thirteen officers fired upon the car at the end of the chase, among them Brelo, who prosecutors said shot 15 times into the windshield while standing on the car’s hood when it was stopped.
No gun was ever found in the victims’ car. They were each shot more than 20 times.
Brelo was the only officer charged criminally because prosecutors said he intended to kill Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, alleging that he reloaded during the shooting barrage and that it was his final salvo that killed the couple.
Attorneys for Brelo argued that other officers also fired during the final seconds of shooting and that prosecutors couldn’t prove which shots were fatal and when they were fired.
Brelo had pleaded not guilty.
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