Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo Found Not Guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter in Shooting Deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams (VIDEO)
NOT GUILTY …
Cuyahoga County Judge John P. O’Donnell has reached the following verdict … 31 year old police officer Michael Brelo has been found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and a lesser charge of felonious assault in the shooting deaths of two unarmed passengers, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. The shooting took place following the November 29, 2012 police chase. The not guilty verdict may have ramifications as one again we are presented with a volatile situation as a white police officer killed two black individuals. Hopefully calm will be kept following the verdict.
A Cleveland police officer has been found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the killing of two unarmed passengers whose car hood he mounted, firing multiple shots into their windshield.
Michael Brelo, 31, who is white, was charged with killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams — both of whom were black — after a car chase in November 2012. He rubbed his face and nodded his head as the judge read the verdict.
“Brelo reasonably perceived a threat,” Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said while he found beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo caused at least one fatal wound to Williams’ chest, he couldn’t determine that the other fatal shots came from his gun.
“One or two other officers inflicted” the others, O’Donnell said, and therefore, he couldn’t find Brelo guilty of Williams’ death.
UPDATE I: Not Guilty on all charges …
The trial was also notable in that it was a bench trial in which the Judge John. P. O’Connell acted as the finder of fact.
Even more unusually, at the close of the trial the judge spent over an hour, prior to announcing the verdict, stepping through his rationale for coming to his conclusion.
The result is Judge O’Connell ruled that:
- The two counts of voluntary manslaughter had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt;
- The two counts of felonious assault had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt; but
- Brelo escapes legal liability for those assault charges because he proved justification by a preponderance of the evidence.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced sheriff’s deputies will join police to keep streets safe following the verdict in Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo’s trial.
At the end of the trial, O’Donnell said he was aware of unrest related to police use of force in other cities, including Baltimore. Mayor Frank Jackson said during a community meeting that the city is tapping residents, activists and even protesters to help make sure demonstrations don’t become violent.
“I firmly believe that the First Amendment gives every citizen a rightful path to speak out and protest against that which they do not like. However, the path to free speech ends at the door to violence.