Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo is not guilty of two charges of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the Nov. 29, 2012 police chase and shooting that ended in the deaths of two people, a judge ruled Saturday, says the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell said that while Brelo did fire lethal shots at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, other officers did as well. O’Donnell concluded that Brelo was not guilty of the lesser included offense of felonious assault because he was legally justified in his use of deadly force. Brelo, 31, was one of more than 100 police officers to participate in a 22-minute police chase, and one of 13 who shot at a 1979 Chevy Malibu.
The shooting ended in the deaths of the driver, Russell and the passenger, Williams. Prosecutors argued that when other officers stopped firing, Brelo jumped onto the Malibu’s hood and shot straight down at Russell and Williams. Those actions, they argued, were unreasonable and went well past his duties as a police officer. Defense attorneys said Brelo had reason to fear for his life, and was justified in his use of deadly force because he and other officers believed that Russell and Williams had a gun and had fired shots. They said that if the 12 other police officers who fired shots were justified in their use of force, so was Brelo. Five police supervisors who were either directly involved in the chase or supervised it to some extent have been charged with dereliction of duty.