Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, 31, went on trial Monday on two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, back in November 2012.
Brelo,who jumped on the hood of a car and fired the final 15 rounds of a 137-shot barrage that killed both unarmed suspects is claiming that he doesn’t remember doing it.
Alternet reports: The chase began after a failed traffic stop near downtown Cleveland. Russell sped off and, during some point in the chase, the Malibu backfired, investigators concluded. But witnesses and cops claimed to have heard gunshots, which prompted an officer’s radio call about shots being fired. More than 104 cops in 60 police vehicles pursued Russell and Williams’ car at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.
The chase ended in the parking lot of a middle school in East Cleveland where Russell and Williams found themselves trapped. Russell tried to flee down the school’s driveway but was met by police cruisers. An officer claiming that he feared for his life when the car drove towards him fired the first shots, which prompted Brelo and other officers to fire their weapons. Brelo and his partner fired 15 shots through their own windshield before Brelo got out of his car, jumped on another cruiser and resumed firing.
Prosecutors claim that Brelo jumped on the hood of the Malibu and fired 15 more shots into the windshield. No officer’s life was remotely in danger at that point, the prosecution says. The defense claims the officers’ actions were reasonable, arguing that all 49 shots Brelo fired were justified and that the threat wasn’t over until he reached into the car and removed the keys.
Neither Williams nor Russell was armed.
Two weeks after the shooting, Brelo told investigators that he didn’t remember jumping on the hood and firing the additional shots. Another officer, however, told investigators that Brelo discussed the story afterwards.
The shooting lead the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the Cleveland Police Police Department. A final report concluded that officers consistently used excessive force and weren’t held accountable for their actions.
If convicted, Brelo faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.