CLEVELAND — Members of Congress, federal government agencies and Cuyahoga County officials, along with local civil rights and police groups have voiced their reactions to the not guilty verdicts in the voluntary manslaughter trial of Cleveland Police officer Michael Brelo.
Right after hearing the verdict in a courtroom adjacent to the main courtroom Saturday, Cleveland Councilman Zack Reed said the way O’Donnell laid the verdict out was “shocking” in that it took nearly an hour to render the decision and that he came down off the stand to explain the dummies and models.
“But also relieved in the sense the justice system worked again,” said Reed. “That the prosecutors laid out their case. Defense laid out there case. The judge…looked at every piece of the case.”
He said that although people may not agree with the totality of the decision “we have to believe the system of justice worked in this case.”
“I believe the system of justice worked in this case,” Reed said. “And therefore, we have to hang our hats on that.
Reed also emphasized that Cleveland needs to be a model for the nation, in light of other decisions to come in the future, including in the case of Tamir Rice.
“We have an obligation to be a model for the nation,” Reed said. “To not riot, to not loot and destroy property and harm people.”
Cleveland Police Union President Steve Loomis responded to the verdict with the words, “Justice. Brelo was held accountable and a judge found him not guilty.”
Here are the latest statements from other officials:
Governor John R. Kasich issued the following statement in response to the Brelo verdict:
“The court has spoken and we must respect its decision. Everyone must have the right for their response to be heard—including when they are angry and hurt—and voicing that frustration in a peaceful way helps us all rise above those forces that would hold us back and tear us down. In Ohio we are working hard to rebuild strong communities where every voice is heard and respected—and we’re making progress, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. Our statewide initiative to improve the way that communities and police work together, with better training, oversight and cooperation, is a model for the country, but we must stay at it. Even in the middle of the strong feelings many have today we can’t lose sight of how Ohio has begun to successfully come together. We are one Cleveland and one Ohio and, with God’s help, together
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio issued the following statement:
“Let’s remember that two unarmed people, convicted of nothing, died at the hands of the police,” said Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU. “To help prevent future tragedies in Cleveland, meaningful systemic reforms need to take place in the Cleveland Police Department.
“Unfortunately, troubled police-community relations has plagued Cleveland for decades as a result of the excessive use of force by law enforcement, particularly against people of color,” Link pointed out. “With the pending implementation of the U.S. Department of Justice’s consent decree, we urge the city of Cleveland to diligently work to create a police department that its citizens can trust. This will only happen if its officers are properly trained and supervised to keep everyone safe.”
The people of Cleveland are calling out for reform of this police department, and the ACLU will continue to work with U.S. Department of Justice, community groups, and the government to move toward a police department that is fair, restrained and committed to protecting the lives of all people. The ACLU’s goal is to help build community-police partnerships with the shared goals of equality, fairness, and justice to ensure public safety.
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) released the following statement:
“The decision of Judge John P. O’Donnell to acquit Officer Michael Brelo is a stunning setback on the road to justice for Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams and the people of Cleveland. The verdict is another chilling reminder of a broken relationship between the Cleveland Police Department and the community it serves. Today we have been told – yet again – our lives have no value.”
“By any measure, the firing of more than a hundred rounds of ammunition by the Cleveland Police Department toward two unarmed citizens was extreme, excessive, and unnecessary. The same can be said about Officer Brelo’s individual actions. My heart goes out to the families of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, and to the entire city of Cleveland.”
“The December 2014 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) review of the Cleveland Police Department showed that we need sweeping, systemic changes in how our law enforcement works and interacts with the community. I pledge to continue to work with city officials to help implement these changes.”
“The decision may not be what we want but our march for justice continues. We still have a long way to go toward racial equality and justice in Ohio, and in the entire United States of America.”
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish says:
“I firmly believe that the First Amendment gives every citizen a rightful path to speak out and protest against that which they do not like. However, the path to free speech ends at the door to violence.
For these reasons, I have instructed the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department to join with other law enforcement officers to protect the rights of our citizens to peaceful protest. At the same time, we are prepared to enforce the law to protect the lives and property of law abiding citizens to assure all of our residents are safe and secure.
I have been in touch with Mayor Jackson and Governor Kasich, and we stand together on these principles.
I pray that our citizens will follow the words and non-violent actions of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must forever consider our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
A statement from Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach and FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony was also issued:
“The United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have been monitoring the extensive investigation that has been conducted around the events of Nov. 29, 2012. We will now review the testimony and evidence presented in the state trial. We will continue our assessment, review all available legal options, and will collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate given the requirements and limitations of the applicable laws in the federal judicial system. This review is separate and distinct from the Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney’s Office’s productive efforts to resolve civil pattern and practice allegations under 42 U.S.C. 14141 with the City of Cleveland.”
The Cleveland NAACP Youth Council released the following statement Saturday evening:
“The Cleveland NAACP Youth Council is shocked and extremely disappointed at the outcome of the Brelo verdict. We feel that justice has yet again not been served in this case. From beginning to end this case was a travesty. It’s hard to believe that the back-firing of a car with two unarmed African-Americans could trigger a 22 mile, 60 car police chase with 137 shots being fired into one car. It is even more astounding that Brelo had the audacity to stand on top of the car as “Rambo” firing fatal shots into the unarmed victims. This incident was akin to a modern day lynching reminiscent of a time in our history when African Americans were murdered without regard to the legal consequences. Historically, the residents of the City of Cleveland have proven that black lives do not matter, notwithstanding the cases of Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson and countless others who have died at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve their community. It is unfortunate that we must educate our youth to protect themselves from the very individuals that are supposed to keep us safe from harm.
We have come to the consensus, that it is vital that as a community we need to strategically organize ways in which we can take action to make a change at the root of the problem; the injustice system. It is imperative that ALL police officers wear body cameras while on duty, Cleveland needs a civilian review board which includes youth representation and power to investigate and discipline. It is also important that all eligible to vote must register, educate themselves and vote intelligently so that we can replace Judges like O’Donnell that have no concern for what is best for our community. We urge the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an immediate civil rights investigation of the Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams Homicide case and to continue to investigate all the other atrocities taking place in Cleveland, Ohio. We also urge that all members of the community channel their anger and passion about this issue in a way that is productive to making a positive change in the community. The vision of the NAACP is to create a society in which all individuals have equal rights, where there is no racial hatred or racial discrimination and all people are treated equal. In order to achieve this vision we must stand together as a community, confront these injustices and make sure that the deaths of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell never happen again.”
Fox 8 and Fox8.com will bring you all the reactions as they become available.