Michael Brelo weeps as he hears the verdict in his trial Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Cleveland. Brelo, a patrolman charged in the shooting deaths of two unarmed suspects during a 137-shot barrage of gunfire was acquitted Saturday in a case that helped prompt the U.S. Department of Justice determine the city police department had a history of using excessive force and violating civil rights.
Michael Brelo, 31, faces administrative charges while remaining suspended without pay after his acquittal Saturday on two counts of voluntary manslaughter, but he no longer faces the prospect of prison. The anxious city now awaits a decision on criminal charges against a white officer in the fatal shooting of a black 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun.
Brelo and 12 other officers fired 137 shots at a car with Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams inside it on Nov. 29, 2012. The shooting occurred at the end of a 22-mile-long chase involving more than 100 Cleveland police officers and 60 cruisers after Russell's Chevy Malibu backfired while speeding by police headquarters. During the chase, an officer reported that he thought he'd seen Williams with a gun. At the end, police mistook police gunfire for shots from Russell's car.
Brelo fired 49 of those shots that night, but it was the final 15 fired into the windshield while he stood on the hood of Russell's car that led his indictment and a four-week trial. He faced up to 22 years in prison if convicted on both counts.
Angry but mostly orderly protests followed Saturday's verdict. More than a dozen protesters were arrested Saturday night for failing to disperse from an alley in the city's Warehouse District on downtown's west side, deputy police chief Wayne Drummond said. Several other people were arrested elsewhere downtown.
The first protest formed outside the Justice Center Saturday morning while Judge John P. O'Donnell read from his 35-page verdict.
A larger protest of around 200 people gathered at noon near where Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty lives. Both protests later merged at a recreation center where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a rookie patrol officer last November. While that demonstration became boisterous, with Eugene Rice angrily calling for justice for his grandson, it remained peaceful. An investigation into the Tamir Rice shooting is nearly complete and will be given to the prosecutor's office to decide whether to pursue criminal charges.
Alicia Kirkman, 47, of Cleveland, said she joined the march in honor of her son, killed in a police shooting eight years ago.