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137 Shots, No Convictions: Cleveland Cop Acquitted in Killing of Unarmed African-American Pair

The car driven by Timothy Russell is shown April 10, 2015, in Cleveland. Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, 31, is being tried on two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the November 2012 deaths of Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, after a high-speed chase. (Aaron Josefczyk/AP)
The car driven by Timothy Russell is shown April 10, 2015, in Cleveland. Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, 31, was tried and acquitted on two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the November 2012 deaths of Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, after a high-speed chase. (Aaron Josefczyk/AP)

 

(Democracy Now) – The national conversation on policing African-American communities is focused on Cleveland today after a major federal settlement and a controversial verdict. The Justice Department has reached an agreement with Cleveland over a pattern of what it calls “unreasonable and unnecessary” force by police.

A probe last year found “chaotic and dangerous” abuse across hundreds of incidents. This comes just days after an acquittal in a case that helped launch the probe.

On Saturday, Officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty of manslaughter for the fatal shootings of two unarmed African Americans in their car. In November 2012, Brelo was one of 13 officers who fired 137 rounds at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after a chase which began when officers mistook a backfiring car for gunshots. Officer Brelo personally fired 49 shots, at least 15 of them at point-blank range through the windshield after he climbed onto the hood of the car.

In a verdict on Saturday, Judge John O’Donnell said he can’t prove Belo shot the fatal bullets, since 12 other officers also opened fire. O’Donnell also said Brelo had grounds to fear for his safety. We are joined by two guests: the Reverend Waltrina Middleton, a community organizer close to the families of Russell and Williams; and Alice Ragland, an activist with the Ohio Student Association, which has been organizing around the issue of police violence in Ohio.

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