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Cleveland Patrolman Acquitted In 2 Deaths Amid 137-Shot Barrage

Protesters take to the streets of downtown Cleveland following the not guilty verdict for Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo.
Protesters take to the streets of downtown Cleveland following the not guilty verdict for Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo.

A Cleveland officer has been found not guilty in the shooting deaths of two unarmed suspects in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire after a high-speed chase.

The judge's verdict Saturday for 31-year-old Michael Brelo comes after a four-week bench trial on two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams on Nov. 29, 2012.

Thirteen officers fired at the suspects' car that night in a school parking lot. Yet only Brelo was charged criminally.

Prosecutors said he waited until the vehicle had stopped and the occupants were no longer a threat to step onto the hood and fire 15 rounds into the windshield.

Brelo could have faced 22 years in prison if convicted on both counts.

11:50 a.m.

At least 30 protesters have gathered at the Cleveland courthouse where a patrolman was acquitted in the deaths of two unarmed suspects who were killed in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire.

About an equal number of sheriff's deputies bearing clear shields stood in front of the courthouse shortly after the verdict as the demonstrators chanted "hands up, don't shoot."

One man standing in front of the phalanx of deputies bowed his head with hands folded, praying in silence.

The deputies have moved inside the entrance of the justice center, and the plaza in front of the building has been cordoned off.

Officer Michael Brelo faced as many as 22 years in prison had the judge convicted him on two counts of voluntary manslaughter.

12:15 p.m.

The lead attorney for the Cleveland police officer who was found not guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of two unarmed suspects says the prosecution spared no expense and "were ruthless."

Patrick D'Angelo calls the case a "tragedy" that was brought about by the actions of the two people who were killed in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire.

He says 31-year-old officer Michael Brelo risked his life the night Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams led officers on a long police chase through the city's streets.

The head of the city's police union says Brelo was held accountable through the indictment, trial and ultimate acquittal. Steve Loomis of Cleveland Patrolmen's Association says he hopes the community respects the judge and the process.

12:50 p.m.

The Justice Department plans to "review all available legal options" after a Cleveland police officer's acquittal on state charges in the deaths of two unarmed suspects.

Officials say they will review the trial testimony and evidence to determine if "additional steps are available and appropriate" in the federal judicial system.

The department says the review is separate from its efforts to resolve a pattern of civil rights violations at the Cleveland police department. A report in December outlined a string of examples of excessive force, including officers who unnecessarily fired guns, hit suspects in the head with weapons, and punched and used Tasers on people already handcuffed.

Judge John P. O'Donnell found Officer Michael Brelo not guilty on all charges Saturday after concluding that the patrolman was justified in using lethal force. O'Donnell also said it could not be determined who fired the fatal shots.

1:30 p.m.

A Cleveland attorney is asking why patrolman Michael Brelo was the only officer charged in the deaths of two unarmed suspects in a volley of police gunfire.

Paul Cristallo spoke at a news conference Thursday with the family of shooting victim Timothy Russell, who along with Malissa Williams was killed after a police chase in 2012.

Cristallo says even though Brelo was acquitted, one the 13 other officers who fired shots should be charged.

A judge found Brelo not guilty Saturday because it couldn't be determined which officer fired the fatal shots.

2:15 p.m.

The prosecutor in the case against a Cleveland police officer who was found not guilty in the deaths of two unarmed suspects says he respects the judge's decision and urged others to do the same.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty says the shooting reinforces the need for more training and better supervision in the police department.

He noted at news conference Saturday that the department is understaffed.

The Department of Justice concluded in December that the Cleveland police department had engaged in a pattern of using excessive force and violating people's civil rights.

The city and DOJ are currently negotiating a reform-minded consent decree that a federal judge will approve and independent monitors will oversee.

2:30 p.m.

About 200 people have gathered for a mock funeral to protest the acquittal of a Cleveland police officer in the deaths of two unarmed suspects.

Dozens of people walked in a peaceful procession carrying a black, plywood coffin and softly singing "I'm going up yonder, we're marching, we're marching."

The protest is being held in a park near the home of the Cuyahoga County prosecutor who lost the case against patrolmen Michael Brelo.

Marchers also protested the lack of progress in the investigation of the killing of a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun by Cleveland police last year.

Some carried signs saying "Will I Be Next?" and "I Can't Breathe" and "Freddie Gray Lynched."

3 p.m.

Protesters have blocked a highway in Cleveland that runs downtown and along Lake Erie.

They have formed a line along the highway, blocking traffic in both directions.

The group had originally gathered downtown, then marched through the streets and crossed a bridge.

3:15 p.m.

Protests have remained peaceful throughout Cleveland after a white patrolman was acquitted of killing two unarmed black motorists.

About 80 protesters are marching through a neighborhood after briefly blocking traffic on a downtown highway. Police are following the protesters on foot and in patrol cars and blocking off traffic.

But so far police aren't trying to stop the group.

The group formed a line across the highway along Lake Erie and stopped traffic for about 10 minutes Saturday.

3:55 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James is not commenting directly on the acquittal, but he is expressing hope the city will remain calm.

He tells reporters that "violence is not the answer, and it's all about trying to find a solution, for good or for bad."

Saturday afternoon, neighbors are coming out of storefronts and standing on porches to watch dozens of marchers pass by, almost like a parade.

The protesters are marching about 4 miles from the downtown courthouse to a recreation center where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a police officer six months ago.

Dozens of officers in police cars and on horseback and motorcycles are following the group while rerouting and blocking traffic.