What Has Cleveland Officer Michael Brelo Been Doing Since 2012? He's Been On Unpaid Suspension Since The Shooting
Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault Saturday after allegedly standing on a car hood and shooting its unarmed black occupants 15 times, according to CNN. The judge gave a number of reasons for the decision, but it has already been met with protests and sadness in Cleveland. The trial is wrapping up, but whether Brelo will be able to return to his post is another question entirely. What exactly has Brelo been doing since the 2012 shooting?
A chase between officers and Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams began after Russell's car backfired, causing a sound similar to that of a gunshot in November 2012, according to CNN. Though officers later found out that Russell and Williams were unarmed, they led police on a 22-mile chase before running into a police car in a middle school parking lot in East Cleveland. Once the car stopped, officers began firing. Then Brelo allegedly got on the hood of Russell's car and fired 15 times, claiming that he "had never been so afraid" in his life, according to CNN. Brelo told the court that he believed Russell and Williams were shooting from the car.
Brelo has been on an unpaid suspension since a review panel convened shortly after the shooting to review the officers' actions. It's unclear what Brelo has been doing during the suspension. He will remain on suspension until the panel is finished investigating the actions of all the officers involved in the shooting, according to The New York Times. In November, the Cleveland agreed to pay $3 million to settle wrongful death lawsuits brought against the city by Russell and Williams' families. Some protesters are demanding Brelo be fired.
Brelo was acquitted by Judge John P. O'Donnell for a few reasons: The officers' thought the pair had a gun, the officers chased the pair for a while, and the pair ran their car into a police vehicle, all of which the judge said was grounds for the officers' believing they were in danger. Second, he said Brelo's second round of gunfire after the more than 100 fired by other officers was permissible because he had no way of knowing Russell and Williams were dead and the threat still could've been present. Third, because Russell and Williams suffered other lethal wounds from other officers' guns, it couldn't be proven that Brelo's shots were what killed either of them.
The Critical Incident Review Committee was formed in 2013 to review the shooting, according to the Times. So far, Cleveland’s police chief, Calvin D. Williams, said 72 officers have been suspended without pay, one officer was fired, two were demoted, and pending administrative charges against three officers were dismissed. The review was paused during Brelo's trial but is expected to resume now that the verdict has been delivered. Brelo could face administrative charges, which could lead to his termination, according to Fox 8 Cleveland.
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, a Democrat whose district is based in Cleveland, told the Times that the verdict was "a stunning setback":
The verdict is another chilling reminder of a broken relationship between the Cleveland police department and the community it serves. Today we have been told — yet again — our lives have no value.
There is another police shooting investigation into the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was also shot in November 2012 by a white Cleveland officers when Rice was holding a toy pellet gun. The shooting, which was captured on video, garnered national attention and spurred protests. Authorities told CNN that the investigation would be finished soon.
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