An Ohio police officer has just avoided spending more than 20 years behind bars for killing an unarmed African American couple in 2012 thanks to a judge who ruled not guilty in his manslaughter case.
According to reports, Officer Michael Brelo had his verdict read to him Saturday (May 23).
A white Cleveland police officer who stood on the hood of a car and shot the vehicle’s two unarmed black occupants in Cleveland in 2012 was found not guilty Saturday morning of voluntary manslaughter. Cuyahoga County Judge John P. O’Donnell, who reached the verdicts after a several-week bench trial, also ruled that Officer Michael Brelo was not guilty of two lesser-included counts of felonious assault. (CNN)
The now-infamous shooting took place in late November 2012.
On Nov. 29, 2012, Cleveland Police Officer Vasile Nan thought he heard a gunshot while he was outside of his cruiser on St. Clair Avenue near the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, and pursued a blue car. The resulting police chase lasted 22 minutes, and involved more than 60 police cars and more than a hundred officers. It stretched through downtown Cleveland, into the Tremont neighborhood and at high speeds on Interstate 90 before ending at Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland. (Fox 8)
Despite being a part of more than 100 cops involved in the chase, Brelo stood out for firing the deadly shots.
Prosecutors argued throughout Brelo’s month-long trial 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. But 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. (Cleveland)
Officer Brelo could have spent the next 20-plus years of his life if found guilty.
Michael Brelo, 31, faced as many as 22 years in prison had the judge convicted him on two counts of voluntary manslaughter. Before issuing his verdict, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell said he would not “sacrifice” Brelo if the evidence did not merit a conviction. (Yahoo!)