In a bizarre miscarriage of justice today, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Officer Michael Brelo of two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were chased and gunned down by police after the vehicle in which they were riding accidentally backfired as they were driving past police headquarters. They were unarmed.
62 police vehicles participated in the ensuing 22 mile chase that reached speeds over 100 mph.
Thirteen officers, including Brelo, fired 137 shots into the vehicle. Russell had 23 bullet wounds and Williams had 24. Prosecutors said they only charged Brelo because he jumped up on the hood of the vehicle after it stopped and fired 15 shots through the windscreen into their bodies after they were no longer a threat, but still alive.
[Judge] O’Donnell said that while he found beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo caused at least one fatal wound to Williams’ chest, he couldn’t determine that the other fatal shots came from his gun.
“One or two other officers inflicted” the others, O’Donnell said, and therefore, he couldn’t find Brelo guilty of Williams’ death.
Judge O’Donnell also found that Brelo acted improperly when he jumped up on the hood of the car
Given these findings, I think he should have convicted Brelo of voluntary manslaughter for the death of Williams. If two or more people fire fatal shots (i.e., that would have caused death), each is guilty of killing the victim even if the ME can’t tell which shot actually killed the victim. That’s basic criminal law.
What do you think?
Here’s the judge’s 35 page decision.
To follow on Twitter: #Brelo