“Brelo reasonably perceived a threat,” said Judge John O’Donnell in his ruling.
This morning, Judge John O'Donnell ruled that Cleveland Patrol officer Michael Berlo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter following the shooting that took the lives of 30-year-old Malissa Williams and 43-year-old Timothy Russell reports MSNBC.
Berlo along with five other officers were indicted by a grand jury in May 2014, nearly a year ago to date.
In 2012, officers pursued Williams and her friend Timothy Russell in a car chase after hearing what they believed were shots fired at them from Russell's car. Officers later learned that the sound was in fact the car's engine back firing as no weapons were found in the vehicle.
The high-speed chase ended with officers firing 137 rounds into Russell's car, killing both Williams and Russell.
After a succession of firing bullets, it was discovered that officer Brelo got onto the hood of Russell's vehicle and fired an additional 15 shots into the windshield.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge O’Donnell said while he found beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo caused at least one wound to Williams’ chest, he couldn’t say that the fatal shots were undoubtedly from Brelo.
Immediately following the verdict, Malissa's brother Alfredo Williams spoke with local news Fox 8 calling for change in the justice system. He went on to say, "They need to put him [Berlo] where he belongs. He needs to go to jail. This was murder."
To date, officer Berlo has been suspended without pay. It is unclear if he will return to duty.
Both the Williams and Russell family filed wrongful death lawsuits last year against the Cleveland Police Department and were collectively granted 1.5 million dollars.