The third week of the Michael Brelo trial resumed Monday with a use of force expert called by prosecutors. Brelo is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after the deadly police chase and shooting on Nov. 29, 2012.
As expert Ken Katsaris testified, he gave two opinions on the shooting deaths of Russell and Williams. First, the chase and some of the police shooting were reasonable. Second, some of Officer Brelo's actions were reasonable, but only to a point.
The force Cleveland Police used to end the 25-minute chase involving Russell and Williams was severe. A group of 62 officers fired 137 shots, with 49 of those shots from Brelo.
Katsaris contends actions were reasonable until Brelo jumped from cover onto vehicles and fired. He called Brelo's actions "foolish" and "outside of training."
"As I did opine in my report, everything after that point is unreasonable, objectively unreasonable," said Katsaris.
Katsaris explained how any confrontation should be handled based on a three-prong test: the seriousness of the incident, if suspects are fleeing, and if suspects are putting officers or others in danger. He says this is where training should kick in.
"Yes, they're making a split-second decision. A split-second decision is based on months of training," Katsaris said.
Cross-examination was aggressive. Prosecutors were skeptical and challenged Katsaris, saying he wrote his report in the comfort of his home, not on the firing line. Also, the term "active shooter" is not mentioned in his report, but he used it on the stand after meeting with prosecutors.
"It could have been mentioned, sir. I don't remember that it was," said Katsaris.
"It could have been asked, what three hours ago? You just don't remember, right?" countered lead defense attorney Patrick D'Angelo.
"I don't recall that at all," answered Katsaris.
It is believed that the prosecution's case will wrap up Tuesday or Wednesday, with a day off scheduled for Thursday. At the end of their case, it is likely that the defense will make what is known as a Rule 29 motion.
In a Rule 29 motion, the judge is asked to decide if the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge decides that burden has not been met, the charges are dropped without the defense presenting its case. If the judge denies the motion, the defense begins its presentation.