Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Brelo Acquitted in Cleveland

Looks like another show jury to me:

"Cleveland officer acquitted in shooting deaths of two" by Kimbriell Kelly and Wesley Lowery Washington Post  May 23, 2015

A Cleveland police officer was acquitted Saturday for his role in the 2012 fatal shooting of two unarmed people in a car after officers mistook the sound of the car backfiring as gunshots.

After a four-week trial, a judge found officer Michael Brelo, 31, not guilty of two counts of felony voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30. Russell and Williams were killed Nov. 29, 2012, after they led 62 police vehicles on a chase across Cleveland.

‘‘The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Michael Brelo knowingly caused the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams,’’ said Judge John O’Donnell in his ruling, ‘‘because the essential element of causation was not proved for both counts.’’

In Cleveland, city leaders braced for protests and called for calm. After the verdict, sheriff’s deputies stood in front of the courthouse as protesters chanted ‘‘Hands up! Don’t shoot!’’ — which became a rallying cry after to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

The verdict comes at a time of growing national scrutiny of the use of force by law enforcement against citizens, especially minorities. Brelo is white; the victims were black.

That wasn't in the initial report.

Brelo, a seven-year veteran, is the first of six officers to be prosecuted in the 2012 fatal shooting of Russell and Williams. Five police supervisors — none of whom fired shots — also each face misdemeanor counts for ‘‘dereliction of duty.’’ No trial date has been set.

When Russell’s Chevy Malibu finally came to a stop in East Cleveland, 13 officers opened fire, shooting at least 137 rounds into the vehicle.

Seems excessive to me.

Brelo, prosecutors said, was the only one who continued to shoot after the threat was over. He climbed onto the hood of the Malibu and shot 15 rounds into the windshield, striking Russell, who was driving, and Williams, who was in the passenger seat.

O’Donnell spent nearly 50 minutes explaining his decision. He walked through the conflicting forensic testimony, using two mannequins in the courtroom to show the trajectory and location of gunshot wounds to the victims. Ultimately, the judge said multiple officers fired shots that could have been fatal to Williams and Russell.

The judge said that officers acted reasonably based upon radio traffic that officers were being fired upon.

‘‘It is Brelo’s perception of a threat that matters,’’ O’Donnell said in court. ‘‘Brelo was acting in conditions difficult for even experienced police officers to imagine.’’

So if a cop even thinks.... we're all f***ed.

Brelo, who has been suspended without pay, did not testify.

Immediately after the judge’s verdict, Brelo put his head in his hands in tears, while several local activists watching in an overflow room began to chant ‘‘No Justice, No Peace.’’

The case hinged on whether the fatal shots were fired by Brelo or one of the other 12 officers. The judge heard from forensic pathologists, siblings of the victims, ballistics experts, a forensic mechanic, use-of-force experts, and police officers.

‘‘We are elated,’’ said Patrick D’Angelo, one of Brelo’s attorneys, who declared that the prosecutor was a bully. ‘‘This has been a blood fight, tooth and nail.’’

Authority usually is.

Steve Loomis, who heads the Cleveland Patrolman’s Union, slammed the prosecution, declaring that it had unfairly targeted his officers — many of whom did not cooperate with the investigation.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he was ‘‘profoundly disappointed’’ with the verdict. ‘‘The trial forced us to examine how and why so many errors and flawed assumptions could have led to the deaths of two unarmed people,’’ McGinty said.

After the judge’s verdict, the Civil Rights Division at Justice, the FBI, and the US attorney’s office issued a joint statement that said they would review testimony and evidence from the trial and ‘‘collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate.’’ That review is independent, the statement said, of the federal investigation.

After the ruling, Renee Robinson, who said she was a cousin of Williams, sobbed uncontrollably in a crowd of demonstrators.

‘‘Why? Why? Why?’’ she said. ‘‘My cousin, from my family, she’s never coming back. And now that officer gets to go back to his family. Like nothing happened.’’

Mayor Frank Jackson called for calm. Hours later, more than 100 people gathered for a peaceful demonstration marking the 6-month anniversary of the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police.

Oh, yeah, him.

Rice, who was black, was shot while he was playing with a toy gun in a park near his home. County investigators are finalizing their investigation for prosecutors.

That is where my print copy ended, and least that won't be happening in Boston ever again.

Prosecutions of officers for the use of deadly force are rare given there have been thousands of fatal police shootings in the past decade. When criminal charges have been pursued, officers have most often been acquitted or cleared, according to a recent analysis.

From 2005 through early April, 54 officers have been charged criminally for shooting and killing someone in the line of duty, the analysis found. Of the 35 cases that had been resolved, 21 officers were acquitted or saw their charges dropped, 11 cases resulted in convictions, and in three cases the officers entered guilty pleas and were placed on probation. Brelo is the second officer in Ohio to face charges in a decade. The other officer also was acquitted.

The fatal shooting in 2012 of Russell and Williams in East Cleveland was the outcome of a chain of events that began shortly before 10:30 p.m. when an officer in an unmarked car activated his windshield strobe lights and attempted to stop the 1979 Chevy Malibu for a turn-signal violation. The blue Malibu, driven by Russell, stopped but drove off as the officer got out of his car.

About five minutes later, the Malibu that Russell was driving backfired as it drove past police headquarters. Officers mistook the sound for gunfire and began to pursue it. A forensic mechanic testified in court that a hole in the muffler indicated the car had a history of backfiring.

‘‘Old Chevy, on St. Clair just popped a round,’’ one officer radioed at 10:33 p.m. according to a transcript of radio traffic later introduced as evidence at trial. The radio transmission set off what became a 20-mile chase involving more than one-third of the 276 officers on duty with the Cleveland Police Department that night, according to prosecutors.


During the chase, some officers reported that someone was shooting at them from the window of the Malibu. At least one officer reported that was not the case and at 10:47 p.m. radioed: ‘‘Passenger just put his hands out asking us to stop. He does not have a gun. He has black gloves on,’’ the officer said, according to the transcript.

‘‘There’s a red pop can in his hand.’’

That didn’t stop the pursuit. Seconds later, the Malibu dead-ended into a middle school parking lot and was rammed by an officer’s car. The car spun to a halt as officers began to open fire.

Brelo fired his Glock 17 from the driver’s seat of his car, reloaded and emptied a second 17-round magazine, according to the investigation. He exited his patrol car, according to testimony, to get to a safer position behind another squad car, according to court documents.

A state investigator who interviewed Brelo following the incident testified that Brelo said that he drew on his Marine training to ‘‘go to an elevated position and push through the target.’’

Brelo stepped onto the hood of the Malibu, where he fired 15 shots into the windshield, prosecutors said.

Brelo had told state investigators that he did not recall getting on the hood of the car.

He was lost in the moment, huh?

At trial, a state forensic scientist testified that he matched photos of footprints on the Malibu to impressions made of Brelo’s boots.

Were they Bruno Maglis?

When the firing ended, Brelo placed the Malibu that was still running in park and removed the keys as another officer searched the victims for a pulse and a gun. Neither was found.

Kind of cold pre$$ there.

The entire shooting was over in 17.8 seconds. Russell, the driver, was shot 23 times; Williams, 24. Prosecutors said that evidence showed Brelo fired 49 times.

Both Williams and Russell were homeless, mentally ill and addicted to drugs, family and officials said. Police later determined the pair were under the influence of drugs the night they were killed.

Cops kind of did everyone a favor then, including the victims. Put 'em out of their misery.

Williams and Russell met in a nursing home where Russell had been undergoing rehabilitation after a car accident in which he ‘‘tried to outrun a police car,’’ his sister Michelle Russell said in court.

Russell had struggled with drugs and had been diagnosed as bipolar, she testified. He was the father to an 18-year-old and a self-employed bathtub refinisher, a trade he learned after being incarcerated.

‘‘He was really trying to get his life together,’’ his sister testified of Russell and his struggle with drugs. ‘‘He would walk past the church, often ask the church members to pray for him that he could overcome, you know, that situation because he wanted to overcome that.’’

He won't have to worry about that now!

Williams was a sweet girl, said her uncle, Walter Jackson Sr. He said he and his mother helped raise Williams after her mother abandoned her as a child. As she grew older she got involved with drugs and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Jackson said.

Eventually, after repeated bouts with the law, she was imprisoned at a women’s correctional facility in Ohio alongside her mother, he said.

Jackson called his niece’s killing a ‘‘black eye’’ for the city. ‘‘Everybody was acting like [expletive deleted] cowboys that night,’’ he said. 

With white hats on.

It’s been nearly two years since an officer has been convicted of shooting and killing someone in the line of duty, according to the analysis.


Related: Dead Zone

Also see: Dead Zone II


"Tulsa volunteer deputy cancels Bahamas trip after shooting" Associated Press  May 12, 2015

TULSA, Okla. — A former Tulsa County volunteer deputy charged with fatally shooting a restrained man has canceled his Bahamas vacation after media reports mocked him, his attorney said Tuesday.

Attorney Corbin Brewster said that 73-year-old Robert Bates canceled the June trip because of media ‘‘scrutiny and pressure.’’ Bates had planned the vacation before the shooting, but changed his mind, Brewster said. Bates resigned in the days following the shooting, Brewster said....



"An uneasy calm in Cleveland after protests; Arrests Saturday reach 71 after officer’s verdict" by Mitch Smith and Ashley Southall New York Times  May 25, 2015

CLEVELAND — The police arrested 71 protesters during demonstrations over the acquittal of an officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase and repeatedly shot at two unarmed black occupants, police said. But by Sunday, calm was restored to the city’s streets.

That's all that matters. Nothing to see here, go home. Who cares if out of control cops thought it was a Hollywood movie (which it may all be; that's the point we have reached)?

Chief Calvin D. Williams said at a news conference Sunday that the demonstrations began peacefully Saturday after Officer Michael Brelo, 31, a former Marine who served in Iraq, was acquitted of charges of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault for his role in the November 2012 shooting. The demonstration turned aggressive in the evening, Williams said.

“We only moved in to make arrests when things got violent and protesters refused to disperse,” he said. “We want people to understand, we’re going to help you in this process, but if things turn violent in this situation we will take action.”

The city streets were mostly quiet Sunday, although more demonstrations were scheduled during the Memorial Day weekend.

“We continue to encourage peaceful protest and demonstration,” Mayor Frank Jackson said. “However, we will not tolerate demonstrations that cross the line.” 

Like Occupy?

Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, were killed on Nov. 29, 2012, after officers fired 137 rounds into their car after a 22-mile pursuit. Brelo fired 49 shots, 15 of them after jumping onto the hood of the car driven by Russell. 

Judge says it was reasonable.

Five police supervisors have been charged with misdemeanor dereliction of duty for failing to control the chase. All five have pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set.

Brelo’s trial played out against the backdrop of a national debate about how police officers use lethal force in encounters with civilians, especially blacks. Russell and Williams were black, and Brelo is white.

Although Cleveland emerged largely unscathed from the protests over the Brelo verdict, the city is not done dealing with public discord over deadly police encounters.

Prosecutors have not said whether they will bring criminal charges against a police officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, 12, who was playing with a replica gun near a playground, and against the officer who restrained Tanisha Anderson, 37.

Anderson, who suffered from bipolar disorder and heart disease, died after she was restrained face down on the pavement. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide.

That could make for a messy trial, nd it quietly spoiled someone's birthday.

In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Governor John R. Kasich credited city leaders with helping to maintain calm and said that the people of Cleveland “should be so proud” of how they have handled themselves since the verdict was announced.

His presidential aspirations just took a hit.

“The people of Cleveland protest, they ought to protest, that’s their right, but violence has been kept to an absolute minimum in that city,” he said.

Kasich said his administration was working to carry out the recommendations of a state task force on community policing, which include creating a statewide policy on the use of lethal force and a focus on recruiting police officers from minority communities.

The city has settled wrongful death lawsuits brought by the couple’s families for $3 million.

I think the individuals that did it should pay it, not taxpayers that had nothing to do with it. Then this $hit would stop right quick. No more ab$olution.

Seventy-five officers have been disciplined for their roles in the chase and the shooting.

It took over 70 cops to chase down one car with two people in it?

An internal review that was paused during Brelo’s trial was expected to resume after the verdict. He will remain on unpaid leave until the review is completed.

The shooting prompted several changes within the Police Department, including the department’s protocol during car chases and how it trains officers making a transition from military service. 

I'm glad good things came out of it all.

The high-profile deaths of Rice and Anderson occurred just eight days apart in November. An investigation by the Cuyahoga County sheriff’s department into Rice’s death is nearly finished and ready to be given to county prosecutors to decide whether to pursue criminal charges against the patrol officer.

The status of the investigation into Anderson’s death is unclear. A medical examiner said she died of positional asphyxiation, leading to a ruling that her death was a homicide. City and police officials did not respond to messages Sunday seeking an update on the case.

Rice and Anderson, like the two motorists whose deaths were at the center of Saturday’s verdict, were black. The rookie officer who fatally shot Rice is white.

Walter Madison, an attorney for Rice’s family, said he respected the judge’s legal analysis in acquitting Brelo but wondered if the prosecutor’s office would have better served justice by pursuing some other charge, such as conspiracy, the Associated Press reported.

Madison wants Rice’s case to be reviewed by an independent prosecutor instead of the county prosecutor. ‘‘It would be the best practice to avoid the appearance of impropriety at this particular junction,’’ Madison said, according to the Associated Press.


Almost time for me to quit for the day.