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Cleveland Officer Michael Brelo, who climbed on to a car bonnet and fired repeatedly through the windscreen at unarmed black occupants, has been cleared of all charges.
The victims, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, died in 2012 in a barrage of bullets fired by 13 officers in a car chase.
Michael Brelo, 31, the only police officer to be charged, was cleared of voluntary manslaughter at the court in Cleveland.
The US has seen a series of police race-related killings, some of which have led to serious civil unrest.
In Cleveland itself, the police shooting last November of a 12-year-old black boy, Tamir Rice, as he waved a replica firearm, fuelled the national debate over police use of deadly force.
Community and city leaders were braced for possible unrest over the latest ruling.
Some 30 protesters gathered outside the cordoned-off courthouse, some chanting “hands up, don’t shoot!” They were faced off by an equal number of sheriff’s deputies.
The deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, had sparked a department of justice inquiry that concluded Cleveland police had engaged in a pattern of excessive force and violation of civil rights.
Only Michael Brelo was charged because prosecutors said the car occupants were no longer a threat when he climbed on to the bonnet of their car and fired 15 shots through the windscreen in 7.4 seconds.
However, the judge said that as other officers had fired in a 137-shot barrage, he could not rule beyond reasonable doubt that Michael Brelo was responsible for the deaths.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell also cleared Michael Brelo of the lesser count of felonious assault.
The judge said he would not “sacrifice” Michael Brelo if the evidence did not warrant conviction.
“Guilty or not guilty, the verdict should be no cause for a civilized society to celebrate or riot,” said the judge.
County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he was “profoundly disappointed” with the verdict.
Timothy Russell’s sister, Michele, said Michael Brelo would not “dodge this just because he was acquitted. God will have the final say”.
Michael Brelo had faced up to 22 years in jail if convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
The incident occurred when the car, a Chevy Malibu, backfired while speeding past Cleveland police HQ, and officers thought a gun had been discharged.
Some 62 police cars were then involved in a 22-mile chase at speeds up to 100 mph.
Both Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams had previous convictions and a crack pipe was found in the car.
Michael Brelo’s lawyer, Patrick D’Angelo, said his client had risked his life during the chase and that the prosecution of the case was “vicious and unprofessional”.
Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot by Cleveland police, was told to show his hands three times by officers before they opened fire, a senior officer says.
Tamir Rice, whom the officers appeared to believe was much older, was shot twice and later died in hospital.
Cleveland police has released video and audio recordings of the incident.
CCTV video shows Tamir Rice pointing the toy gun at a passer-by from the playground where he was shot, which prompted a 911 emergency call.
Recordings of radio communications reveal a police officer at the scene describing Tamir Rice as aged “maybe 20” after the shooting.
A separate recording appears to confirm the officers were not told the gun might be fake.
Cleveland police said on November 26 that the family had given permission for CCTV recordings of the shooting to be released.
The footage shows Tamir Rice walking around a playground with a replica gun clearly in his hand.
Minutes later, a police car drives up and stops immediately next to him.
Chief Officer Edward Tomba said that the car door was open when the officers arrived, and that they had ordered the boy to show his hands three times as the car pulled up alongside.
Tamir Rice was then shot and fatally wounded.
In a recording immediately after the incident, a police officer is heard saying: “Shots fired, male down, black male, maybe 20.”
A recording of the call from the operator to police officers as they were dispatched to the scene appears to confirm that there was no mention of a replica gun.
The operator describes the incident as “a black male sitting on the swings, keeps pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people”.
An audio recording of the 911 emergency call had previously revealed that the caller had said the gun was “probably a fake” on two occasions, before adding he was not sure whether it was “real or not”.
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Cleveland police shot dead a 12-year-old boy after carrying what turned out to be a replica gun in a playground.
The medical examiner for Cuyahoga County identified the boy as Tamir Rice.
Police say an officer fired two shots at Tamir Rice after he failed to obey an order to raise his hands.
A caller reported the boy to police for scaring people with a gun but said that he did not know if it was real.
One of the officers was in his first year on the local force, the other had more than 10 years of experience.
Tamir Rice was shot on Saturday afternoon and died in hospital early on Sunday morning.
Cleveland deputy police chief Ed Tomba said Tamir Rice was shot twice after pulling the gun from the waistband of his trousers.
The boy did not make any verbal threats nor point the gun towards the officers, Ed Tomba added.
Police said the weapon was an “airsoft” replica gun that resembled a semi-automatic pistol, adding that an orange safety indicator had been removed.
The caller said the boy was pulling the gun in and out of his trousers.
“I don’t know if it’s real or not,” the caller told police.
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland police association, said the two officers at the scene were not told about the caller’s comments.
An investigation is under way and both officers have been placed on administrative leave.
He says there have already been calls for tighter controls on fake guns, with one local lawmaker – Alicia Reece – saying she intends to introduce legislation that would require fake guns sold in Ohio to be brightly colored.
Cleveland’s police force has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, most notably over a high-profile car chase in 2012 that ended with two deaths and officers firing 137 shots.
The US Justice Department is currently conducting an investigation of the force’s pursuit and use-of-force practices.
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Cleveland police have started searching properties near the home where three missing women were imprisoned for a decade after Michelle Knight told them there could be other girls.
Michelle Knight, who was found at the Cleveland home on Monday after being held against her will for more than 10 years, said that there was another girl at the home around 10 years ago.
But Michelle Knight, who herself was kidnapped in 2002, said the victim then disappeared.
In police interviews she added that she did not know how many other women were in the house because they were all locked in separate rooms, Fox News reported.
Along with his alleged victims, only Ariel Castro lived at the home at Seymour Avenue. His older brother Pedro Castro lived at his mother’s home, while Onil, the youngest of the three brothers, lived alone in his own home “somewhere in the lower west side”, police said.
The details could give hope to the family of Ashley Nicole Summers, who was 14 when she vanished on July 6, 2007 in the same neighborhood from where Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were taken.
Initially Ashley Summers was considered a runaway as had she lived with her great-uncle and they had argued prior to her disappearance.
But a year later the police and FBI believed Ashley Summers was an “endangered juvenile” who could be “being held again her will”. In 2009, the FBI said they suspected a link between Ashley Summers’ disappearance and those of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.
Ashley Summers’ physical appearance and the proximity of her home to the other disappearances lead investigators to suspect the cases were linked and that all three might have been kidnapped by the same man.
Ashley Nicole Summers was 14 when she vanished on July 6, 2007 in the same neighborhood from where Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were taken
Special Agent Vicki Anderson, of the FBI Cleveland Division told Cleveland.com on Tuesday that Ashley remains in their thoughts as they gather evidence at Ariel Castro’s Seymore Avenue home.
“We are keeping Ashley in our thoughts as we go every step of the way,” she said.
“Whether it is something we find at the house, or someone seeing the stories remembers something, we continue our search for Ashley.”
A cadaver dog, along with various law enforcement officers, searched Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home on Tuesday, said Vicki Anderson. But police revealed they had not found any human remains at the house despite fears up to five babies could be buried in the garden.
But police did confirm on Wednesday that they found ties and chains inside the home.
“We have confirmation that they were bound, and there (were) chains and ropes in the home,” Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said, adding that authorities did not miss opportunities to find them.
Prior to the disclosure of the naming of the women discovered on Monday, Ashley Summers’ family had briefly thought their daughter could be amongst those discovered.
“We’re hoping that it’s connected, and they knew where she was,” her aunt Debra Summers told CNN.
“We’re hoping for a miracle.”
The Summers family is renewing their efforts to publicize Ashley’s disappearance.
The FBI’s missing person website says Ashley Summers has a tattoo of “Gene” enclosed in a heart on her upper arm, and her birthday is June 16, 1993, making her 19 years old.
Investigators will speak to Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight to see if they know anything about Summers’ disappearance.
On Tuesday, Cleveland Police said: “Every single lead was followed up on no matter how small. We dug up yards, canvassed neighborhoods. [The] real hero is Amanda Berry.”
Until now the search for the missing women had been fruitless, a series of false leads and bitter disappointment for the desperate families.
Michelle Knight, who was 20 years old when she went missing in August 2002, was last seen at a cousin’s house near West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue.
Three years later, in April 2003, Amanda Berry, disappeared after leaving her job at a Burger King – at West 110th Street and Lorain. It was the day before her 17th birthday.
And a year later, Gina DeJesus, then 14 years old, was last seen leaving her middle school at West 105th Street and Lorain.
All three were found safe on Monday night after Amanda Berry bolted from a home on Seymour Avenue, about three miles from where they were last seen.
Amanda Berry told police that she and the other girls were being held prisoner by Ariel Castro, 52, who has been arrested along with his two brothers, Pedro and Onil, on suspicion of kidnapping.
Cadaver dogs appeared at the home following fears babies were born inside the Cleveland house. At least five children may have born at the house, police sources told NewsChannel5.
One victim suffered up to three miscarriages because she was so malnourished, while other sources told WKYC the captors would beat the pregnant women, so that the babies would not survive.
At least two of the women held captive in Ariel Castro’s house in Cleveland for about a decade were raped by their captors, it was revealed today by an unnamed source close to the investigation.
One woman was forced to help Amanda Berry give birth and was threatened with death if the baby died, the source said as two of the women returned home.
Cleveland’s police chief has said the women were bound with ropes and chains.
Former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, has been arrested along with his two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50.
Ariel Castro owns the home where the three women were found.
The source said one of the women became pregnant many times and had multiple miscarriages.
Another woman became pregnant and was so badly beaten she lost the baby, the source added.
The source also said the woman who helped Amanda Berry deliver her daughter, Jocelyn, now 6, was threatened with death if the child did not survive.
At least two of the women held captive in Ariel Castro’s house in Cleveland for about a decade were raped by their captors
Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered around the DeJesus family home, cheering as 23-year-old Gina DeJesus arrived.
Gina DeJesus, wearing a bright yellow hooded shirt, was escorted into her home by a woman with her arm around her.
In a news conference outside the house, members of her family appealed to neighbors to help find a fourth missing girl, Ashley Summers, who has not been seen since 2007 when she was 14 years old.
“There are not enough words to say or express the joy that we feel for the return of our family member Gina, and now Amanda Berry, her daughter and Michelle Knight who is our family also,” said Sandra Ruiz, Gina DeJesus’ aunt.
She praised the FBI and Cleveland police for their long-time support, and asked neighbors not to retaliate against the suspects’ family.
Felix DeJesus, Gina DeJesus’ father, said people needed to watch out for children in their neighborhood, exhorting the community to “fix” the problem.
Amanda Berry, 27, arrived at her sister’s home shortly before midday on Wednesday, along with her daughter Jocelyn, apparently conceived and born in captivity.
Police Chief Michael McGrath said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and the third victim, Michelle Knight, 32, were in good condition “considering the circumstances”, in an interview with NBC.
Chief Michael McGrath added that while in captivity, the women were sometimes allowed outside in the garden.
Meanwhile, Cleveland public safety director Martin Flask said that no human remains had been found at the home, after “a thorough search”. Police have said they are also investigating other properties.
Ariel Castro is accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing the three women; his brothers are accused of complicity in the same offences, according to arrest documents.
The police chief said investigators were interviewing the Castro brothers, and they were talking.
Charges against the three suspects may be announced later.
Chief Michael McGrath disputed claims by neighbors that police did not fully investigate reports of suspicious activity at 2207 Seymour Avenue, which is in a working-class, mostly Puerto Rican district.
Amanda Berry escaped on Monday with the help of a neighbor who heard her screaming and kicking a door while her alleged captor was out of the house.
When police arrived they also found Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight in the house. Gina DeJesus had gone missing aged 14 in 2004, while Michelle Knight had disappeared in 2002, aged 20.
Ariel Castro reportedly fled the neighborhood and was arrested at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, according to local media.
His son, Anthony Castro, told London’s Daily Mail newspaper that his father would not let him inside on his last visit to Seymour Avenue.
“The house was always locked,” he said.
“There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage.”
It is unclear when the other Castro brothers were detained.
Jocelyn is the little girl born to Amanda Berry, one of three women imprisoned in a Cleveland home for a decade.
The 6-year-old girl is “happy and healthy” despite being brought up in captivity, authorities have revealed.
After kidnap victim Amanda Berry, 27, courageously escaped the home on Monday, she told her grandmother that the child is her daughter Jocelyn, who was born at Christmas six years ago.
Authorities believe that Jocelyn’s father is one of the three brothers arrested in connection with the kidnappings and they are now carrying out paternity tests to confirm their suspicions.
Jocelyn was home-schooled by her mother, possibly without the knowledge of the suspects, Ariel Castro, 52, and his two brothers Onil Castro, 50, and Pedro Castro, 54.
The girl, who escaped the home with Amanda Berry and two other missing women, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, was pictured grinning in hospital alongside her mother and her aunt Beth.
Jocelyn is the little girl born to Amanda Berry, one of three women imprisoned in a Cleveland home for a decade
Jocelyn, who authorities said enjoyed popsicles while being examined by doctors, is photographed lightly touching her mother’s arm and showing off her missing two front teeth.
“She looks great, happy, healthy and ate a popsicle last night,” Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said.
“Seeing her mother smile made her smile.”
Ed Tomba added that it was “a good possibility” that one of the three suspects was her father.
It is feared other babies were born inside the Cleveland house. At least five children may have born at the house, police sources told NewsChannel5.
One victim suffered up to three miscarriages because she was so malnourished, while other sources told WKYC the captors would beat the pregnant women, so that the babies would not survive.
It is unknown what happened to any children who were born at the home.
FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson told ABC TV that the three women had spent time together at Metro Medical Center hospital, where they were taken after being freed.
She described them as being in very good spirits and said it was obvious that they were very close.
“You could see that they had a bond, that they had been through this together,” Vicki Anderson said.
All three women were abducted between 2002 and 2004, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were in their teens at the time of their kidnappings and Michelle Knight was 20 years old.
On Monday evening, Amanda Berry began screaming from behind the locked front door of the home and was helped out by a neighbor. She fled the home and called 911.
Authorities are now investigating how the horrors inside the home went undetected for so long.
Neighbor Israel Lugo said other neighbors had seen naked women crawling on all fours behind Ariel Castro’s house. Three men were in the garden and were controlling the women, he said.
“We thought it was funny at first, and then we thought that was weird so we called the cops,” neighbor Nina Samoylicz told CNN.
“They thought we was playing, joking, they didn’t believe us.”
Neighbors waited for police for two hours but no patrol cars showed up.
Cleveland police said that the department has no records of a call for service to that home.
But the claim is one of a number of stories to have emerged from neighbors who say they reported unusual goings-on at Ariel Castro’s Seymour Avenue, Cleveland home to local police who either didn’t respond or didn’t enter the house when they did show up.
Charles Ramsey 911 call to Cleveland police has been released.
Since Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight’s dramatic rescue Monday night, Charles Ramsey has become an internet celebrity due to his animated and zany interviews with news outlets.
His expletive-filled 911 call is garnering just as much attention.
Charles Ramsey explains to the dispatcher: “Hey bro I’m at 2207 Seymour Avenue, West 25th. Hey check this out, I just came from McDonalds right? And I’m on my porch eating my little food and this broad is trying to break outa the f***ing house next door to me.
“There was a bunch of people on the street right now and sh** and we are like, <<Whats wrong with you, whats the problem?>>
“And she’s like, <<This mother f***er has kidnapped me and my daughter>>. Said her name is Linda Berry or some shit. I don’t know who the fuck that is, I just moved over here bro.”
The dispatcher asks the man to calm down and slow down and tries to ascertain what is happening and where they are.
Charles Ramsey explains that he is looking at Amanda Berry, who is on the phone with a different dispatcher. He explains that she is white, but her child is Hispanic and that she is wearing a white tank top and blue sweat pants.
Since Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight’s dramatic rescue Monday night, Charles Ramsey has become an internet celebrity due to his animated and zany interviews with news outlets
He is then asked if Amanda Berry needs an ambulance and he can be heard shouting over to her.
“You need an ambulance or what? She needs everything, she in a panic, she’s been kidnapped you know? So put yourself in her shoes.”
ANIMATED 911 CALL FROM CLEVELAND HERO CHARLES RAMSEY
Charles Ramsey: Hey bro I’m at 2207 Seymour Avenue, West 25th. Hey check this out, I just came from McDonalds right? And I’m on my porch eating my little food and this broad is trying to break outa the f***ing house next door to me.
There was a bunch of people on the street right now and sh** and we are like, “Whats wrong with you, whats the problem?”
And she’s like, “This mother f***er has kidnapped me and my daughter”. Said her name is Linda Berry or some shit. I don’t know who the fuck that is, I just moved over here bro.
Dispatcher: Sir you have to clam down and slow down, is she still in the street?
Ramsey: Seymour Avenue.
Dispatcher: Is she still in the street or where did she go?
Ramsey: Yeah I’m looking at her, she right now. She calling you all, she on the other phone.
Dispatcher: Is she black, white or Hispanic?
Ramsey: Err she white, but the baby look Hispanic.
Dispatcher: Okay what is she wearing?
Ramsey: Err white tank top, light blue sweat pants, like a wife-beater.
Dispatcher: Do you know the address next door that she said she was in?
Ramsey: Yes 2207, I’m looking at it.
Dispatcher: Okay I thought that was your address, that house.
Ramsey: No No, I’m smarter than that bro, I’m telling you where the crime was, not my house.
Dispatcher: Sir we can’t talk at the same time, do you want to leave your name and number?
Ramsey: Charles Ramsey, R-A-M-S-E-Y
Dispatcher: Are the people she said that did this do you know if they are still in the house?
Ramsey: I don’t have a f***ing clue, bro, I just got out of McDonald’s.
Dispatcher: Can you ask her if she needs an ambulance.
Ramsey: You need an ambulance, or what? She needs everything, she’s in a panic bro, she’s been kidnapped so you know put yourself in her shoes.
Dispatcher: We’ll send the police out. Thank you.