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CLEVELAND — The outcome of voluntary manslaughter charges against a Cleveland police officer likely will rest on a judge's decision whether the final 15 shots he fired during a 137-shot barrage by officers was justified.
Michael Brelo, 31, goes on trial Monday on two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the November 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, after a high-speed chase.
Brelo is the lone officer among the 13 who fired their weapons to be charged criminally. Prosecutors have said the threat to officers' lives was over when Brelo jumped from a police cruiser onto the hood of a beat-up Chevy Malibu to fire down into the windshield.
His defense team has argued that all 49 shots Brelo fired that night were justified and that the threat was not over until Brelo reached into the car and removed the keys. Russell and Williams each were struck by more than 20 rounds. Investigators concluded that nearly 100 rounds struck the Malibu.
Brelo's lawyers decided to have a judge, not a jury, decide the charges. He could receive a maximum sentence of 25 years if convicted.
More than 100 officers in more than 60 police cars to pursue Russell and Williams at high speeds that reached at least 100 mph. Investigators eventually concluded that neither Russell nor Williams had a gun.