Cleveland Police officer Micheal Brelo, who is white, was found not guilty today in the shooting death of two unarmed black civilians. Protesters were waiting on this verdict for weeks, which sparked more anger in the city. Everyone’s frustrations had taken root, and community leaders have advised everyone to stay calm.
Cleveland officer Brelo was accompanied by 12 other officers that fired 137 shots into the couple’s car, after mistaking the car backfiring for shots. Timothy Russel, who was 43 and Melissa Williams was 30, were driving in the downtown area, when their car backfired, and police thought it was gunfire, and began to chase them. The pursuit involved over 55 police cars, that ended in an Elementary school parking lot in a hail of bullets, and lasted approximately 30 minutes. It is not known why Russell took off, and refused to pull over. The Cleveland officer was the only one to be charged in the shooting, When everyone else stopped shooting, Brelo stood on the hood of the car, and shot 15 more times into the wind shield. When he stopped 23 shots had hit Russell, and 24 went in to Williams, they were both dead at the scene. Brelo was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter.
Protestors were walking the streets with signs and cries for justice Saturday night. Police lined the streets to ensure that violence will not break out. Today’s verdict in Cleveland trails other unarmed shooting deaths by police, such as Officer Darren Wilson, who was also white and was not charged with shooting an unarmed teenager in Missouri, and the six officers in Baltimore charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Tensions between Cleveland officers and civilians remain high. Cleveland officer Brelo who started to tear up, was very emotional when the judge announced his decision.
The judge said he was not guilty, and the officers shooting was reasonable. He did not know there was not a gun in the car, or that the car had backfired. The judge excluded the other officers involved in the shooting, so none of them will go to jail for the couples death.
Relatives and friends of the couple were shocked and saddened at the verdict. William’s brother said his sister was murdered. A U.S. representative Marcia Fudge, said that the judge’s decision is more notice that the relationship between police and the city is broken. Tensions between law enforcement and the black community have been extremely high all over the country. The situation is worse in Cleveland. The Department of Justice found numerous counts of misconduct and abuse. Some believe that the problem comes from a police department that does not function properly. A Cleveland officer stands on the hood of a car and fires over a dozen rounds into the windshield with two unarmed civilians in the front seat, and it is let go.
By Katherine Miller Chichester
NBC news: Cleveland Cop Acquittal: Protests, arrests after officer found not guilty in shooting
Thefreethoughtproject.com: 137 shots by 13 cops plus two dead equal taxpayers on hook for 3 million
theatlantic.com: A troubling acquittal in Cleveland
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