Cleveland, OH– Michael Brelo, 31, of the Cleveland Police Department is scheduled to go to trial on April 6, facing two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. The judge denied two motions for immunity on Monday. On Tuesday, the prosecution filed a motion stating that they intend to treat the police as hostile witnesses.
As we previously reported, on Nov. 29, 2012, a car chase began when an officer allegedly thought he heard a gunshot from a vehicle which had backfired. It is unclear why Russell did not stop for the police.
The chase concluded in an elementary school parking lot where Timothy Russell who was driving the vehicle was shot 23 times while his passenger Malissa Williams was shot 24 times. A total of 137 rounds were fired at the duo by 13 officers. No weapon was found on their bodies or inside the vehicle. Their bodies were left inside the vehicle at the scene from 11 pm until 9:30 am the following day.
The families of the two victims were each awarded 1.5 million dollars each in a settlement from the city, which, of course, will come from taxpayers and not the officers’ wallets themselves.
On Monday, Brelo’s attorneys filed two motions to have the charges dismissed. The first was based on Garrity rights, which prevent a public official from making incriminating statements against themselves during investigations carried by their employers. The second was based on qualified immunity, a defense available to state and federal officials — including police officers — that asks whether the defendant knew whether they were breaking an established law at the time of the incident, Cleveland.com reported. Both motions were denied.
On Tuesday, prosecutors filed a motion stating that they intend to interrogate the police as hostile witnesses and have asked for the court’s help to get police to testify since they have refused to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office or the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. Their motion describes union representatives sitting next to police during their interviews and in one instance even telling a police officer to “keep your mouth shut.” Throughout the course of the investigation, the police union reportedly told the officers involved to deny any wrongdoing in the case and to remain silent in front of prosecutors.
The motion even describes the officers invoking their right against self-incrimination and compared their actions to an “organized crime syndicate.”
“This defiance by police has never occurred before,” the motion says. “This is evidence of a scheme by confederate police officers to protect fellow union member and Officer Michael Brelo.”
Read the full motion here.