A Cleveland police officer claims he can’t remember climbing onto the hood of two suspects’ car and firing 15 rounds through the windshield. Both suspects died from gunshot wounds. The officer is now facing two counts of voluntary manslaughter for his part in the two deaths.
The Daily Mail reports that officer Michael Brelo from the Cleveland, Ohio, police force has been charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter after it was determined he fired 15 rounds into a vehicle containing two suspects while standing on the hood of their car. The shots followed a high speed chase involving a number of other police officers. However, Brelo is charged with excessive force for firing his 15 rounds after all other officers had ceased firing and did so after jumping onto the hood of the suspects’ car.
The incident began after a police officer in plain clothes attempted to pull over Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30. The car sped away in front of the Cleveland police headquarters. At this point, the car backfired. Police and witnesses thought the backfire was a weapon shot and reported gunfire outside of the station. This caused a frenzy of police officers to rush to the chase. Brelo was one officer involved in the high speed chase. In total, 60 police cruisers containing 104 officers were involved in the chase which reached speeds of 100 MPH.
About 20 minutes after the chase began, Russell pulled into a school parking lot. He then tried to maneuver out of the lot to escape the police and side swiped a police car. This caused the vehicle with the two suspects to come to a halt. As the car spun to a stop, one officer began firing as he said he feared for his life as the vehicle approached. This caused 135 rounds to be shot towards Russell’s vehicle from officers surrounding the scene. Officer Brelo shot 15 rounds through his own windshield into the other vehicle before exiting his car. After all other officers ceased firing, Brelo was seen jumping onto the hood of Russell’s vehicle where he fired 15 rounds directly into the vehicle’s front seat.
Brelo now claims that he doesn’t remember jumping on the hood or firing the fatal shots.
“It’s possible because I was so terrified that I was going to get run over. But I don’t recall that, sir.”
Brelo says that he was so fearful for his life that he isn’t sure exactly what he did. He says he doesn’t recall actually firing the weapon from the hood of the vehicle, but forensics evidence proves he was standing on the hood as footprints on the hood matched Brelo. Other officers say they saw someone on the hood but could not pinpoint which officer was responsible. However, one rookie cop says Brelo talked about jumping on the hood shortly after the incident.
Brelo’s attorney says he was acting out of fear for his life as he thought the vehicle was going to run over him. However, it was determined after the shooting that neither Russell or Williams had a weapon in the vehicle.
If found guilty, Brelo could face up to 25 years in prison. Brelo is the only officer out of 13 who fired shots into the vehicle who is facing charges.
What do you think? Should Brelo be charged with voluntary manslaughter in this case or was he acting in self-defense?
[Image Credit: Office of the Ohio Attorney General]