CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A Cleveland police officer was indicted on Friday on charges of shooting and killing two unarmed suspects after a lengthy high-speed car chase in 2012, prosecutors said.
A grand jury indicted Michael Brelo on two counts of manslaughter for his involvement in the November 2012 shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after Russell fled a traffic stop, according to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty.
Brelo was one of the 104 officers involved in the chase that ensued with Russell at speeds that reached 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour).
When the 25-minute chase ended in a school parking lot, Brelo climbed on top of Russell’s car and fired 15 rounds into the 1979 Chevy after other officers stopped firing, investigators said.
“The public was no longer in danger because the car was surrounded,” McGinty said in a statement.
Brelo’s attorney Patrick D‘Angelo said the shots he fired were in good faith and with legal justification.
“Officer Brelo was making judgments and had to perceive what was going on as bullets were flying by his head. There was no clear break in the action,” D‘Angelo said.
No guns were found in the car or on the two shooting victims, and gunshots that officers said they heard have been attributed to the car backfiring, investigators said.
If convicted, Brelo could spend three to 11 years in prison.
The grand jury also indicted five police department supervisors for dereliction of duty, a misdemeanor.
Nine Cleveland police department supervisors were suspended, two demoted and one was fired because of the way they handled the incident. Of the officers involved in the chase, 63 were suspended for a total of 178 days. The longest suspension was 10 days.
The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a review of the Cleveland Police Department to look into a possible pattern of excessive force at the request of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.
Editing by Brendan O'Brien and Jan Paschal