AFRICANGLOBE – An Ohio judge, John P. O’Donnell, on Saturday basically ruled that it’s okay for police to fire 137 bullets into unarmed African Americans.
Every such outrageous decision sends a clear signal to other officers that they can count on the “judicial” sytem to provide them cover for their crimes.
Judge O’Donnell acquitted a White police officer, Michael Brelo, who was one of 100 officers who chased a Black couple in a car for about 20 miles and then fired 137 rounds into the car after it stopped and was cornered. After the car was trapped, 13 of the officers opened fire; 12 of the officers are White and one Latino.
Brelo fired 49 rounds. He became even more notorious because he reloaded his weapon, climbed on the hood of the stationary car, and fired an additional 15 rounds at Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, the African American couple inside the car.
Williams sustained 24 gun-shot wounds and Russell 23 gun-shots.
During his bench trial –before a judge instead of a jury– for the November 29, 2012, incident Brelo’s lawyers argued that he had “feared for his life.”
This is standard boilerplate defense White officers use to justify wrongful killings of Black people. Darren Wilson used the same defense for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Even Michael Slager tried to make the same claim for killing Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina; contending that Scott had wrestled his stun gun from him. Slager was doomed only when a video emerged showing him calmly using the back of Walter Scott for target practice.
In Cleveland, both Williams and Russell were unarmed. They could not have fired any shots to instigate any response in kind from police. Yet the officers, diabolically, fired 137 rounds.
And if Brelo truly feared for his life why would he run towards the vehicle carrying Williams and Russell and jump on the hood? Would he not have taken a secure position behind the open door of his police car or behind his own vehicle and fired from there? Could it be that he ran at the vehicle because it was clear to him that no shots were forthcoming and he was not under any danger? He certainly had enough time to reload; and he did. So was he reloading simply for the thrill of firing more shots into Williams and Russell?
So why was the first shot even fired since both Williams and Russell were unarmed? Did Brelo feel his life was in danger simply because Williams and Russell were Black and had been chased by police? There are numerous cases where White individuals have been chased by police and eventually arrested — alive.
After a trial lasting four-weeks, Judge O’Donnell concluded that: “The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Michael Brelo, knowingly caused the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.”
So even though Brelo fired 49 times in order to kill Williams and Russell, he did not “knowingly” cause their deaths. Clearly, he could not have been trying to merely “wound” Williams and Russell.
As a result of Judge O’Donnell’s ruling, Brelo, who is on unpaid suspension, can now ask for full re-instatement and back pay.
Patrick A. DAngelo a lawyer for Brelo said the charges against his client were brought on, not because he and other officers fired a total of 137 shots at two unarmed African Americans inside a stationary vehicle, but by “an oppressive government”; he was quoted saying his client “didnt do anything illegal” and “didnt do anything wrong.”
Judge O’Donnell came to the same conclusion.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division all said they are reviewing testimony and evidence from the trial. Going by past reviews such as in the Trayvon Martin case and the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, the announcements don’t inspire much confidence in terms of an outcome that would lead to legal action against Brelo.
The statement by the agencies hints at futility, in part reading: ”We will continue our assessment, review all available legal options and will collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate given the requirements and limitations of the applicable laws in the federal judicial system…”
After the incident, in 2013, Cleveland’s Critical Incident Review Committee (CIRC) was formed to look into the shooting and 72 officers were suspended without pay while one supervisor was fired and two were demoted. Three officers had administrative charges against them dismissed. When Brelo’s trial started, the CIRC’s review was put on hold to await the verdict; now with Judge O’Donnell’s verdict letting Brelo walk it’s unclear what the review can accomplish against any of the other officers who were not as blatant in firing shots against the couple.
The Cleveland police officers, and Brelo, fired 137 shots at Williams and Russell because they were Black. Judge O’Donnell didn’t see fit to convict Brelo of any crime because his wrongful action was against a Black couple.
And here’s the irony of this ugly story: What was the motive of the police chase of Williams and Russell in the first place?
There had been a report of shots being fired from the vehicle. Later it was determined that it might have been a case of the vehicle merely “backfiring.”
That’s why 100 police officers joined in a chase of the couple and that’s why 13 of them fired 137 shots.
This can’t be explained by the motive of “fearing” for their lives.
Given the long history of police violence against Black people in this country, pure hatred and racism –utter contempt for lives of Black people– are more credible explanations.
So now what’s to stop other officers in Ohio from discharging multiple shots at other unarmed African Americans, under different circumstances, should they too “fear for their lives”?
Bad Cops: Get Ready For Your Close Up!