A white police officer who stood on a car and shot its two unarmed black occupants in 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault on Saturday.
The verdict has been anxiously awaited since the spread of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement, which came about after a spate of unarmed black men and women were killed in police custody around the country, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
Officer Michael Brelo shot into the car of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams 15 times after he and his colleagues fired more than 100 shots during a 20-minute car chase. The officers involved said they heard gunshots from the car before pursuing it, but neither Russell, 43, nor Williams, 30, had a weapon. Each was shot over 100 times.
Prosecutors said the sound may have been the car backfiring.
The case was included in a two-year Justice Department investigation, published late last year, which found that the Cleveland Police Department engaged in a “pattern or practice of unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” and violated the civil rights of local residents.
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