On Saturday, an Ohio judge acquitted Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo of manslaughter, the New York Times reports. During a November 2012 car chase, Brelo, who is white, and other police officers, fired 137 rounds at Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, who were black and unarmed.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that, after other officers had stopped firing, Brelo climbed on the hood of Russell’s car and fired 15 shots at the pair, killing them. This, they said, was evidence that Brelo had acted recklessly.
“We’re asking our officers, based on their training, not to be compelled by fear to kill people when there’s other reasonable, objectively reasonable, options available to you,” said assistant county prosecutor James Gutierrez in his closing arguments. “And there was. He wanted to kill.”
Brelo’s lawyers argued that he—and the other officers—believed that they had been shot at. “What would make him want to shoot through the windshield at another human being?” defense attorney Patrick D’Angelo said. “Could it be that he was shot at? Could it be that he reasonably perceived that the occupants of the Malibu were shooting at him? That’s what all the other officers perceived. That’s what Officer Brelo perceived.”
A Justice Department report from December on the city’s police department found “reasonable cause to believe that CDP engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”