Closing statements underway in Officer Michael Brelo's trial - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Closing statements underway in Officer Michael Brelo's trial

Crime scene in Nov. 2012. Closing statements are underway in the trial for Officer Michael Brelo. (Source: WOIO) Crime scene in Nov. 2012. Closing statements are underway in the trial for Officer Michael Brelo. (Source: WOIO)
Officer Brelo is on trial for 2 shooting deaths after a police chase in 2012. (Source: WOIO) Officer Brelo is on trial for 2 shooting deaths after a police chase in 2012. (Source: WOIO)
Assistant prosecutor Sherrie Royster gives closing statements. (Source: WOIO) Assistant prosecutor Sherrie Royster gives closing statements. (Source: WOIO)
Defense attorney Thomas Shaughnessy gives closing statements. (Source: WOIO) Defense attorney Thomas Shaughnessy gives closing statements. (Source: WOIO)
Judge John O'Donnell listens to closing statements. (Source: WOIO) Judge John O'Donnell listens to closing statements. (Source: WOIO)
Closing arguments began Tuesday in the voluntary manslaughter trial of Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo. 

After nearly four weeks of testimony, the prosecution began presenting what it feels the evidence proves.

Since the burden of proof is on the prosecution, they get the final say.

Prosecutors have called Brelo a liar and painted a picture of him similar to "Rambo," jumping on the hoods and roofs of cars and shooting to kill.

"Timothy Russell made bad decisions that night, but it shouldn't have been a death sentence," said assistant prosecutor Sherrie Royster.

"Reacting and risking one's life is not the same as using illegal force," responded defense attorney Pat D'Angelo.

The defense believes the prosecution's case against Brelo, and Brelo alone, should be thrown out.

"I also call it dishonest, your honor, when they march into court and they selectively play or selectively present to you, as the finder of fact, a judge, they withhold the texts from Officer Hummel," said D'Angelo.

The texts presented came from other officers to other people. They made observations about what went on at Heritage Middle School on the night of November 29, 2012 when Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were killed by police gunfire.

Part of the texts reads: "I am fighting an internal struggle right now for a lot of reasons. What I know will haunt me until I can say something."

At trial, prosecutors had hinted repeatedly that there was a "blue wall," a shared silence by officers to protect one another.

"Officers should still be held responsible for their actions and the only way to do that in this case, to hold defendant Brelo responsible for his actions, is to find him guilty," said Royster.

"You're reacting, you're trying to save your life, and that's what he was doing, and anything else you prove in this court, Your Honor, is 20-20 hindsight," said D'Angelo.

Concerns over police training have been brought to light since then. Many question if Officer Brelo received the training for situations like the one in November 2012, or if he received it and ignored it.

"His actions show that at that moment his intent was to kill," said Royster.

Prosecutors summarized expert testimony, in short, pointing to their belief that Brelo was out of control. But the defense urged the judge to consider the harsh surroundings at Heritage Middle School.

"There's no gunshots whizzing by their head, but we make fun of the Cleveland Police as gunshots are given by their heads that they reasonably believed were coming from the occupants of that Malibu," said D'Angelo.

The prosecution contends that Brelo, and the Cleveland Police force in general, is trained in how to handle situations like the one involving Russell and Williams but the training went out the window that night.

"One mistake led to another, and another and another," said assistant prosecutor Erica Barnhill.

"What is this training that Officer Brelo is throwing away, that he is disregarding that makes him such a bad guy and a culprit for everything that happened here? Zip. Nothing, Your Honor. Not one bit of evidence," said D'Angelo.

"He fired his last 15 shots into their bodies essentially using them as target practice," said Royster.

"It was opined that those head shots were sustained by the decedents prior to the last series of elevated shots by Officer Brelo," said D'Angelo.

Once everything has been presented, Judge John O'Donnell will then deliberate. He has said he will not have a decision until at least May 15 but has hinted it may be later.

The defense hopes Judge O'Donnell believed them when they said officers who participated in the chase heard about the gunshot report over police radio and used that information to make a decision to enter the chase. Additionally, the officers involved continued to believe Williams and Russell were armed when the car was finally stopped.

Both victims had criminal records and drugs in their systems, but police never found a gun in their car or on either of them.

Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson released an open letter, asking citizens, in part, not to cause any setbacks to ongoing police procedure updates once the verdict in this case is announced.

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