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Cleveland Fires 6 Police Officers Involved in Fatal 2012 Car Chase

  • VOA News

FILE - Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo, center, listens to the judge reading his verdict during his trial in Cleveland, Ohio, May 23, 2015.

FILE - Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo, center, listens to the judge reading his verdict during his trial in Cleveland, Ohio, May 23, 2015.

Authorities in the northern U.S. city of Cleveland said they are firing six police officers who together shot 137 times in a barrage that killed two unarmed people after a high-speed car chase in late 2012.

Public Safety Director Michael McGrath, a former police chief in the Ohio city, did not identify the officers, but the group does include Patrolman Michael Brelo, who was acquitted of criminal charges last year.

Six additional officers who opened fire during the fatal onslaught face suspensions ranging from 21 to 30 days. Another officer facing discipline has retired.

Lawyers for the officers argued that their clients had probable cause to believe the people in the car were a safety threat, and noted that it was not determined until later that the car's occupants were unarmed.

Charged in killing

Brelo was the only officer charged in the killing of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who died in a hail of gunfire after their car stopped and was surrounded by police.

A subsequent investigation showed Brelo fired 15 shots through the windshield of a car while standing on its hood. He was later acquitted of manslaughter, after a judge said he could not determine whether Brelo alone fired the fatal shots.

A months-long federal probe later concluded that Cleveland police had engaged in a pattern and practice of excessive force.

The U.S. Justice Department investigation led to an agreement with the city to overhaul Cleveland police practices to minimize racial bias and excessive force that many Cleveland residents alleged had become standard operating procedure in the city.

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