Following a high-speed police chase in November 2012, officers gathered outside the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, after they heard what they believed to be shot from a speeding vehicle.
Over the next 22 minutes, two people in the speeding car – Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams – were shot in the car.
The Netflix documentary 137 Shots examines this incident and the wider issue of police shootings in the US. Police officer Michael Brelo was one of those involved in the incident and was put on trial for his role in the incident.
Here we find out more.
How Did it Happen?
The couple made up of 30-year-old Malissa and 43-year-old Timothy, met at a Cleveland homeless shelter and left in Timothy’s car. Timothy’s car was found on 29 November 2012 by a police officer in a high-crime area.
He then attempted to stop the car for a traffic violation. However, Timothy fled and was subsequently seen driving past two police officers when they were outside the courthouse.
The policemen thought they heard shots being fired from Timothy’s car, so they radioed in a report.
Further investigation concluded that the noise was caused by the car reversing. However, at the time, more than 60 patrol cars and more than 100 police officers were involved in the pursuit.
Despite the police continuing to pursue Timothy’s vehicle, the officers were puzzled as to why he refused to stop. The chase ended when Timothy pulled into the parking lot of the East Cleveland School.
When police cruisers surrounded the car, one of the police officers opened fire. When police arrived, many officers said they saw a gun in the car.
In the seconds that followed, 13 policemen opened fire on Timothy’s car, hitting it 137 times. After the incident, Michael Brelo’s actions were scrutinized. At the time, he had been a police officer for almost five years.
According to some sources, Michael fired 49 shots and even climbed on the bonnet of Timothy’s car to shoot at the occupants. When questioned, Michael said that he and his friend were afraid of being hit.
Michael Brelo Accused of the Wrong Act
After the shooting, Michael was arrested and charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter. There were also charges of misconduct in public office against five supervisors. Michael’s trial began in April 2015 and the prosecution alleged that Michael acted unreasonably in jumping on Timothy’s hood and firing a weapon.
Michael Brelo not Guilty
The defense argued that he reasonably believed that Timothy and Malissa were armed and therefore had reason to use lethal force against them. Michael was eventually found not guilty in May 2015. At the time, the verdict sparked many demonstrations outside the courthouse.
Cleveland Police Department officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty on Saturday on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
The judge ruled that the government had proved the elements of criminal assault beyond a reasonable doubt, but that Brelo was justified in using deadly force against the two victims, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.
It was on the night of 29 November 2012 that the incident that ultimately led to their deaths occurred, and police fired more than 137 shots into Russell’s car. When the car stopped, Officer Brelo jumped on top of it, reloaded his weapon, and fired 15 more shots. Neither Russell nor Williams had any weapons.
The Cleveland Police Department reached a settlement with the US three days after the judge acquitted Brelo. US Government, Department of Justice.
After the Department of Justice announced earlier this year that the Cleveland Police Department “engaged in excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution”, the parties reached an agreement.
Working as Parking Supervisor
In January 2016, six of the thirteen police officers involved in the shooting, including Michael, lost their jobs, while the other six were suspended for up to one month without pay. Despite this, in June 2017 an arbitrator decided to reinstate the five police officers who had been dismissed.
Michael was closed at the time and remains unemployed. It appears that Michael is currently working as a parking attendant and he and his family live in Bayville, Ohio.