Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ohio Patrolman Acquitted in 2 Deaths amid 137-Shot Barrage

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ohio Patrolman Acquitted in 2 Deaths amid 137-Shot Barrage

Article excerpt

CLEVELAND * A white patrolman who fired down through the windshield of a suspect's car at the end of a 137-shot barrage that left the two unarmed black occupants dead was acquitted Saturday of criminal charges by a judge who said he could not determine the Cleveland officer alone fired the fatal shots.

Michael Brelo, 31, put his head in hands as the judge issued a verdict followed by angry, but peaceful, protests: Outside the courthouse police blocked protesters from going inside while across the city others held a mock funeral with some carrying signs asking, "Will I be next?"

Saturday night, police reported numerous arrests, mostly for refusal to disperse.

The acquittal came at a time of nationwide tension punctuated by protests over the deaths of black suspects at the hands of white officers and following a determination by the U.S. Department of Justice that Cleveland police had a history of using excessive force and violating civil rights.

Before issuing his verdict, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell reflected on the unrest. "In many American places, people are angry with, mistrusting and fearful of the police," he said. "Citizens think the men and women sworn to protect and serve have violated that oath or never meant it in the first place."

But O'Donnell said he would not offer up Brelo to an angry public if the evidence did not merit a conviction.

"I will not sacrifice him to a public frustrated by historical mistreatment at the hands of other officers," O'Donnell said.

Brelo who fired a total of 49 shots, including 15 while standing on the hood of the suspects' vehicle faced as many as 22 years in prison had the judge convicted him of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting that happened after Timothy Russell's beat-up Chevy Malibu backfired while speeding by police headquarters.

Russell's sister, Michelle Russell, said she believed Brelo would ultimately face justice.

"He's not going to dodge this just because he was acquitted," she said. "God will have the final say."

The Justice Department, U.S. attorney's office and the FBI will review the testimony and evidence and examine all available legal options, said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. …

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