Day 4: CPD officer on trial in deadly shooting

Day 4: CPD officer on trial in deadly shooting
Michael Brelo on trial in shooting death of two people. (Source: WOIO)
Michael Brelo on trial in shooting death of two people. (Source: WOIO)

The trial of a

officer moves into Day 4.

Officer Michael Brelo is charged with manslaughter after the November 29, 2012 police chase from Cleveland into East Cleveland. That chase ended in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Officers fired 137 shots at the pair. Brelo fired 49 of those bullets.

After a heated end to testimony Wednesday, the Brelo trial got back to scientific evidence Thursday.

The lighting conditions at Heritage Middle School are a factor in the case. The question: what could Brelo, other officers and the two suspects see when that chase ended on that fateful night.

"I worked with the Sheriffs Department, and yours, and others to re-create lighting at the scene," said James Benya, a lighting engineer hired by prosecutors.

Benya documented light levels at various locations at the middle school.

"The strongest impact of the flashing lights would have been on the people in the blue Malibu," said Benya.

Brelo's attorney took issue with the fact that investigators substituted a white car for the blue Malibu during a recreation of the events that night.

The sheriff''s cars that stood in for Cleveland Police cruisers in the re-creation had slightly different light bars, which affected lighting.

"I was told there was an effort made to turn on only the light features on the sheriff's cars that were present on the Cleveland Police cars," said Benya.

There is another thing the defense believes wasn't taken into account: The test car was not damaged. The actual car was bullet riddled.

"The strobe effect on a damaged windshield would have a different effect than it would on a clear windshield," asked defense attorneys.

"Yes sir," answered Benya.

Thursday's testimony also turned to what an audio recording can tell investigators about the shooting.

Gunshot sounds were captured by a dash cam recording from a suburban cruiser near the shooting scene.

Audio expert Dr. Robert Maher added "video" to those gunshot sounds.

Dr. Maher told the court that he identified two distinct gunfire bursts, one where multiple guns were being fired, two seconds of calm, a single gunshot, calm, then a final barrage.

It is the prosecution's contention that 15 of those last 18 shots were all fired by Officer Brelo and were unnecessary.

It is the heart of their charge of voluntary manslaughter.

"It is my conclusion that that gunshot was similar to the gunshots in the second barrage to the point that I can say it came from the same firearm," said Dr. Maher.

The defense has a different take, honing in on the fact that there were three other shots, meaning others thought the fight was still on.

Judge John O'Donnell will leave the courtroom Friday afternoon to go to Heritage Middle School to view the shooting scene, though he will not drive the entire route.

Judge O'Donnell will also go to a warehouse where the vehicles involved in the chase and shooting have been stored.

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