A Cleveland police officer was found not guilty on Saturday of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of an unarmed man and a woman who were killed after a high-speed car chase in 2012.
Judge John O’Donnell said Officer Michael Brelo, 31, acted reasonably in shooting the two suspects while standing on the hood of their car and firing through the windshield after it was surrounded. Brelo was also found not guilty of aggravated assault in the case.
The trial, which began on April 6, took place at a time when U.S. law enforcement is under close scrutiny for the use of lethal force against minority groups, and it follows a series of high-profile killings of unarmed black men by white police officers in various states across the country.
The two people who were killed, Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, were black and Brelo, a former Marine, is white.
Experts testifying for Brelo said Williams and Russell died early in a barrage of gunfire and Brelo had acted reasonably in the belief that they were shooting at him and other officers.
Defense attorneys said ballistic experts could not determine who or how many officers fired the final shots.
The chase, which started in downtown Cleveland after reports of gunfire coming from the car, went through multiple cities at speeds topping 90 mph and ended with 13 Cleveland police officers firing 137 rounds.
Russell was struck 24 times and Williams 23 times. No weapon was found in the car or along the route, and a forensic mechanic testified that the car, a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu, was prone to backfiring.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer and Paul Thomasch; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Janet Lawrence)