CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The judge in the trial of Cleveland Officer Michael Brelo is viewing the cars involved in the Nov. 29, 2012 deadly police chase and shooting, that left Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, dead.
Judge O'Donnell is also viewing the parking lot in East Cleveland where the chase ended.
The judge and prosecutors viewing the car and cruisers involved in the chase: pic.twitter.com/nlrgNsMeDD
— fox8news (@fox8news) April 10, 2015
The trial for Officer Brelo resumed this morning in Cuyahoga County court. He's accused of two counts of manslaughter.
Also Friday, Prosecutor James Gutierrez questioned Cleveland Lt. Brandon Kutz, a training officer, at length about how officers are trained. He also asked Kutz about the department's use of force and pursuit policies that were in place during the time of the chase and shooting.
Kutz said Brelo had been retrained in July 2012, just a few months before the deadly chase and shooting.
Brelo's trial started on Monday.
Check back for LIVE COVERAGE of today's events.
The trial has just resumed in the case of Cleveland Officer Michael Brelo.
On the stand is training officer Brandon Kutz from the city of Cleveland, to discuss how officers are trained.
Kutz says the criteria for officers to use deadly force in 2012 was in the instance of any life-threatening behavior that could cause injury or death to an officer. Officers at that time attended a class and were then tested on this policy.
Cleveland police got a new use of force policy in 2013.
Kutz: Training includes tactics for traffic stops, firearms use, cover and concealment, a wide range. There is also ambush training, which focuses on strengths and vulnerabilities with an officer in their cruiser. It involves engaging a target/threat from inside vehicle before exiting and finding cover. It’s taught that you can effectively engage a target through a windshield/car.
Kutz: It’s taught that in a felony traffic stop situation, officers should pull suspects out of the car and bring them to the officers if possible. The term “Cleveland rush” means rushing to a car and engaging the suspects at the car. The term “Cleveland rush” is not taught in the training academy. It’s something that is done, but it is not part of an official policy. Kutz says it is dangerous.
Kutz is emphasizing the importance of engaging a suspect to prevent anything further from happening in a potentially dangerous situation.
Kutz: Officers trained to avoid crossfire at all times if possible
Kutz is now reviewing the vehicle pursuit policy that was effective in 2012.
Kutz: An arrestable felony or misdemeanor offense warrants a pursuit. You must also consider if there is an immediate danger to the public if the suspect remains at large.
You have to get “explicit” permission from your supervisor in order to give pursuit.
Kutz says officers are supposed to also ask permission to join in a pursuit, but there were cases where “heavy radio traffic” prevented officers from doing that. That, in effect, is a violation of policy.
Kutz says in 2012, pursuit policy was only taught in training academy, not for in-service officers. So all officers employed at that time generally had only been trained in that area during their training academy.
Kutz says the policy regarding the number of cars allowed in a pursuit policy is 2 cars. The policy can be deviated. A supervisor can OK and permit that the number of cars can rise above 2.
Kutz agrees it is very difficult for a supervisor to know who is in a pursuit if radio traffic becomes heavy. It’s important that a supervisor talks about these things/prepares for these situations before they happen.
An unmarked car should not be involved in a pursuit unless it has emergency lights/sirens. A marked car should always be the lead cruiser in the chase.
Kutz says the PIT maneuver is one in which you try to hit a car in order to turn sideways to stop it. Kutz agrees officers are not trained in the maneuver, but it is a legitimate maneuver. Prosecutor Gutierrez demonstrates with model cars.
Kutz says there is a “post ahead position,” where officers are trained to lay themselves on the hood of a car to engage a suspect who poses a deadly threat through their windshield. Kutz says officers are never taught to stand on a cruiser and shoot into a car. Kutz says he’s never seen an officer jump on a hood to shoot into a car.
Kutz says Brelo was retrained in July 2012 after a traffic stop. Brelo had reached into a suspect’s car, and the car pulled away. Brelo’s partner fired a shot into the car.
Brelo’s July 12 training included how to stop and pursue a suspect and weapons training.
Brelo’s attorney Pat D’Angelo is now questioning Kutz.
“You have to be prepared for anything,” Kutz says.
Kutz: Pursuits are “difficult to manage.”
Kutz agrees that in 2012, the officers who responded to the pursuit were not getting annual in-service training on policy/methods of pursuit. He agreed that the only training of that type they would get would come from supervisors, and would vary from shift to shift and boss to boss.
As to getting involved in a pursuit, Kutz says “It’s more of our duty to get involved, it’s our duty to fulfill this mission. Is it exciting? Absolutely…but there’s also a sense of duty there.”
Kutz says he knew a “good percentage” of all of the officers involved in the 2012 chase. He feels they were responding in “good faith” and out of a sense of duty.
Kutz says he does not feel the officers involved in the chase were “out of control.”
When asked “would you find fault with an officer who follows a suspect into a parking lot?” Kutz answers ‘no.’
D’Angelo asks Kutz if standing on the hood of a car is inappropriate in any circumstance. Kutz says, “Anything is possible, I guess.”
D’Angelo asks if officers in the city have stop sticks. Kutz said “I saw them many years ago.”
D’Angelo ends his questioning.
Kutz says he has heard that officers are less likely to get involved in pursuits now.
Judge asks if you are in the lead car, if you know how many vehicles are behind you in a chase. Kutz says it would be hard for someone in the lead car to know that. Kutz says that it is a supervisor’s responsibility to manage a pursuit.
Kutz is done on the stand. The judge has called a brief break until noon.
Stephen Bartczak, Cuyahoga County deputy sheriff, is now on the stand. He is assigned to the detective bureau.
Bartczak was a Bratenahl patrolman at the time, on duty the night of the chase. Bartczak responded to the Eddy Road overpass during the chase after hearing scanner traffic regarding the chase.
Bartczak testifies that he saw “a lot” of police cruisers involved in the chase, not all had their lights/sirens on.
Prosecutor Gutierrez has gotten permission to play dash cam video of the chase. The video is about nine minutes long. There is not a clear picture on the screen showing the proceedings here in the media room.
The video is that from Bartczak’s dash camera.
The video shows the recording from the actual chase portion of the incident.
Bartczak has been dismissed from the stand. He will be called to the stand again on Wednesday.
The judge now is leaving the courtroom to view cars involved in the chase and the parking lot of the school where the shooting happened in East Cleveland.