A grand jury indicted six Cleveland police officers Friday involved in a high-speed chase and subsequent fatal shooting of two unarmed people in November 2012.
Officer Michael Brelo was charged with two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams on Nov. 29, according to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty.
In addition to Brelo, the grand jury indicted Lt. Paul Wilson, Sgt. Patricia Coleman, Sgt. Randolph Dailey, Sgt. Michael Donegan and Sgt. Jason Edens, each on two misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty.
“No one respects or admires the work of a dedicated professional police officer more than a prosecutor,” McGinty said in a statement. “They are heroes, but they, too, must answer to the law.”
The charges stem from a car chase involving five dozen police cruisers, which ended when police trapped the suspects’ car and opened fire. Brelo is accused of getting onto the hood of the suspects’ car and firing at least 15 rounds, including the fatal shots, after other officers stopped shooting, according to McGinty.
Neither Russell nor Williams were armed.
“The driver was fully stopped. Escape was no longer even a remote possibility. The flight was over,” McGinty said. He also noted a unanimous ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week making it clear that officers are to stop firing their guns once the threat to public safety has ended.
Officers fired 137 shots.
“This was now a stop-and-shoot – no longer a chase-and-shoot,” McGinty said. “The law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot.”
The five other officers are accused of poor leadership, which led to the mismanagement of the chase. This, in turn, led to the fatal shooting, McGinty said.
“The supervisors charged today ignored the policies of the department to conduct chases in a manner that shows ‘due regard for the safety’ of the public, he said. “They ignored their own training. They put the public at risk. They put the officers under their command at risk.”