A white Cleveland police officer has been cleared of wrongdoing in a high-profile city shooting that left two unarmed black people dead. A judge today found Michael Brelo not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 shootings that followed a massive police chase involving more than 100 cops, reports Cleveland.com. Other officers fired at the couple in the fleeing car, but prosecutors singled out Brelo because they say he hopped on the roof of the car after the shooting had stopped and fired through the windshield at Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30. Each were hit more than 20 times in all.
Defense attorneys maintained that Brelo was justified in shooting because he believed that Russell and Williams had been firing at officers. The AP reports that Russell's car backfired as it passed police headquarters, and the sound was mistaken for a gunshot, setting off the chase. The verdict comes ahead of a decision on whether city officers will face charges in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year. Also last year, the Justice Department faulted Cleveland police for using excessive force too often and ordered reforms. (Read more police shooting stories.)