Update: Cleveland Officer Found Not Guilty in Pair's Killing
UPDATE: Arrests were made during a protest Saturday (May 23) in Cleveland. Approximately 200 people marched in response the verdict, and as part of a mock funeral that was already planned for Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African-American who local police fatally shot in Nov. 22, 2014, CBS News reports.
"We need to organize and figure out a way to stop this from happening again," said Michelle Russell, sister to Timothy Russell, who was shot 23 times. Malissa Williams, the Medical Examiners Office determined, was shot 24 times.
Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo climbed onto the hood of a car in 2012 following a chase and proceeded to fire 15 shots at its two unarmed African-American occupants. Despite his actions, he was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge, reports CNN.
Officer Brelo was just one of several officers who repeatedly shot at driver Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, during the Nov. 29, 2012 chase, which began after reports of gunfire from the car were made. Prosecutors later concluded that the noise may have been the car backfiring.
After learning of the gunfire reports, more than 100 officers pursued the vehicle for more than 20 miles beginning in downtown Cleveland. The chase speed was reported to have reached 100 miles an hour with police firing 137 rounds at the car after it was cornered in a middle school parking lot. Officer Brelo, who jumped on top of the car despite it being immobile, is said to have fired 49. That response was found to be constitutionally justifiable because it was not clear whether or not any perceived threat to the officers was over.
After Cuyahoga County judge John P. O'Donnell found Brelo not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault in Russell's and Williams's deaths, citizens waiting outisde the courtroom became uneasy with several holding up signs and chanting, "no justice, no peace."
"All I know is that I don't trust police no more. No police," said Williams's brother Alfredo Williams. "I can't recover from this... This verdict isn't real. This verdict is fake."
This is just one of several reported incidents of police brutality in Cleveland in recent years. Two years following Russell's and Wlliams's murder, an officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. That incident soon became one of the most widely highlighted cases after a 2014 Department of Justice report found that Cleveland police had a pattern of using excessive force.
Patrick D'Angelo, one of Brelo's attorneys, said that his team was "elated" with the decision, and blamed an "oppressive government" for bringing the charges onto his client. "We stood tall, we stood firm," he said. "Because we didn't do anything illegal. We didn't do anything wrong... The prosecution in this case spared no expense and was, in fact, ruthless. But not withstanding that, we fought tooth and nail, as you saw in this courtroom."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak)