— Akron Ohio (@AkronOhioNews) May 23, 2015
Today, Cleveland judge John O’Donnell found Police Officer Michael Brelo not guilty in the shooting death of two unarmed African Americans who perished in a hail of 137 bullets in 2012 – announcing the verdict on the same day protests were planned in the Tamir Rice case.
On November 29, 2012, Officer Brelo fired 49 shots in the high speed police pursuit of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, in which a total of 137 shots were fired by 13 police officers, killing them both. According to reports, the barrage of bullets started because a Cleveland officer believed a car backfire was a gunshot.
Local TV station WKYC reports that Brelo jumped on the hood of the car with Russell and Williams inside, and fired at least 15 shots after other officers stopped shooting.
Seven officers who SAW Officer Michael Brelo fire all 49 shots into their car have each REFUSED to testify. pic.twitter.com/0IS459nghc
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) May 19, 2015
Judge O’Donnell, who rendered what many on Twitter deemed a rambling account of the build up to the verdict, went through each and every one of the shots fired at Williams and Russell, and said that the state had to demonstrate Brelo “meant to kill the victims and that his bullets caused the death.”
The judge determined since most of Brelo’s shots were “peri-mortem,” (meaning the victims were shot after they were already dead), and although he noted that Brelo caused at least one fatal wound to Williams, he said that the lethal force was justified because the officers perceived a threat.
Time out: So 13 officers perceived a threat from two unarmed African Americans in a car? And are justified to fire 137 bullets into said car? And because it couldn’t be determined which bullet caused the death, no one is charged?
#BreloVerdict mean new police strategy? have multiple police shoot simultaneously – so no 1 bullet can be found to cause fatality?
— hari sreenivasan (@hari) May 23, 2015
And although O’Donnell noted that “[Brelo’s] gun and badge offer no special protection here,” and it took Brelo all of 7.39 seconds to fire, O’Donnell determined that Brelo was consistitutionally justified in use of force.
Brelo was also exonerated from the two lesser charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter or aggravated assault.
The highly watched case promises to rock the city that has been embattled against what the federal government deemed a corrupt and incompetent police force that uses deadly force against African Americans far too often.
In fact, in December 2014, Eric Holder‘s Justice Department determined that the Cleveland Police department had “sweeping deficiencies” and recommended significant reforms.
The 58-page letter paints a woeful portrait of rogue officers pulling their guns and firing at suspects without justifiable cause, of beating defenseless suspects already in handcuffs, and of covering up their actions by failing to write accurate police reports — if they write any reports at all.
Coincidentally, today is the six month anniversary of the shooting death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was shot and killed seconds after a police officer jumped out of his car responding to a call in which someone said that there was a “kid with a gun on a playground.” The gun turned out to be a toy.
Malaya Davis, Northeast Ohio Regional Organizer of the Ohio Students Association, a multi-racial activist group based in Ohio, confirms to NewsOne that her organization was planning an action today at the home of Cleveland prosecutor Timothy McGinty, as the Cleveland Police Officer who fired the deadly shots in that case has not yet been questioned or charged.
“Today, has been six moths since Tamir was killed, and there hasn’t been any action towards justice for him and his family,” says Davis. “We want to honor his life and we need to move along in this case.”
Davis says that at 12pm today, the already-planned action includes staging a mock funeral procession for Rice to McGinty’s home, moving to the park where Rice was killed. She says that their demands are clear: “What we and the family want is for both officers involved in the [Rice] shooting to be brought up on charges.
“We’re here for Tamir, and we’re trying to keep our focus on that right now,” Davis continues, though she says that most likely they will meet up with other protesters at the courthouse after the Rice action concludes.
“The reason we’re here, and why the protesters are at the courthouse, is the systemic issue of police violence and state violence. Our main demand is that we want the prosecutor to bring charges against the officers, and just using Baltimore as an example, where the prosecutor stepped in and quickly made a decision in that case, we want our prosecutor to do the same.”
— VeryWhiteGuy (@VeryWhiteGuy) May 21, 2015
During and before the verdict, Cleveland officials continually said that they would “arrest any protester” who became violent.
Which begs the question, who is violent with whom?