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June 3, 2014

Cleveland Police

Cleveland Cop Indicted for Manslaughter in the Deadly Shooting of an Unarmed Black Man and Woman

Deadly Police Shooting

by Frederick H. Lowe
A white Cleveland police officer, who stood on the hood of a car and fired at least 15 shots through the windshield, killing an unarmed black couple, following a car chase, was indicted on Friday by a Cuyahoga County [Ohio] Grand Jury.

The grand jury indicted Officer Michael Brelo on two counts of manslaughter for killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams on Nov. 29, 2012, Timothy J. McGinty, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, said in a statement.

If a jury or judge convicts Brelo --- and that is not a sure thing because juries and judges are reluctant to convict white cops in deadly shootings of blacks even when they may be unarmed and present no threat --- Brelo could face a mandatory prison sentence of three to 11 years.

The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association is already calling Brelo a hero.

In deadly shootings of African Americans, particularly black men, lawyers for the police officer usually argue their client feared for his life.

Williams was shot 24 times and Russell was shot 23 times.

The Cuyahoga Grand Jury also indicted Lt. Paul Wilson, Sgt. Patricia Coleman, Sgt. Randolph Dailey, Sgt. Michael Donegan and Sgt. Jason Edens each on two misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty.

"These five supervisors abdicated their leadership responsibilities during the 20-mile, high-speed chase that involved 62 patrol cars and 100 officers," McGinty said.

Twelve police supervisors have been disciplined, including one who was fired and two who were demoted.
 
Police chased a car driven by Russell when a cop claimed he heard a gunshot fired from a car speeding by the police and courts complex. The unnamed cop jumped into his patrol car and radioed for back up.

The 20-mile, 22-minute chase that involved 62 police cars and more than 100 officers began in downtown Cleveland. It ended in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland, where Russell's car came to a full stop after all escape exits were blocked by patrol cars.

Calvin Williams
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams
Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots, McGinty said in a statement. The other officers stopped shooting but Brelo continued to the shoot after first climbing on the car's hood.

"Officer Brelo started shooting again and fired at least 15 shots, including fatal shots downward through the windshield into the victims at close range as he stood on the hood of Mr. Russell's car," McGinty said. Brelo fired a total of 49 shots at Russell and Williams, McGinty said.

To support his decision to seek an indictment, the prosecutor cited a 9 to 0 U.S. Supreme Court Decision. The court ruled that the police should stop shooting when they see that a suspect is incapacitated and ended any threat of continued flight.

"Let's be clear what happened here. The driver was fully stopped. Escape was not longer even a remote possibility. The fight was over," McGinty said. "After the ceasefire, Officer Brelo unleashed an unlawful, second barrage of shots. The ultimate legal issue is whether the police officer was justified when he stood on the hood of Mr. Russell's car and emptied his clip into the occupants after the chance of flight was completely eliminated and they no longer presented a threat to the public's safety. He was not."

In February, Cleveland Police Department hired Calvin Williams as the department's first black police chief in 20 years. Williams has been assistant chief.

Chief Williams, 49, is a 28 year veteran of the police department.

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