Willie Edwards was 25. His wife Sarah was pregnant with their third child. Winn-Dixie had hired him as a driver just two months earlier, a job he needed not just to support his growing family, but two sisters as well.
His boss asked him if he could substitute on a route. He quickly accepted the offer, happy for the extra income.
On his way back from his evening run to Sylacauga, AL he stopped for a soda. He turned on the truck’s dome light to read his log.
It was around 11:30 PM. Henry Alexander, Raymond Britt, Sonny Kyle Livingston Jr, and James York sat nearby about to execute their latest terrorist act: kidnap a black man who they’d heard had said “something” to a white woman.
They walked up to Edwards’s truck, pointed a gun at him, and ordered him into their vehicle.
The men shoved and slapped him as they drove. One man pointed his gun at Mr. Edwards and threatened to castrate him. Sobbing and begging the men not to harm him, Edwards repeatedly denied having said anything to any white woman.
When the men reached the Tyler-Goodwyn Bridge, they ordered Edwards out of the car and gave a choice to him: jump or they’d shoot him. Edwards climbed the railing of the bridge and fell 125 feet to his death.
The next morning, Edwards’s truck was found in the store parking lot, the dome light still on. Others assumed him simply missing. Perhaps he’d gone to California, a place he’d always wanted to go.
Fishermen found Edwards’s decomposed body in April and Sarah officially became a widow. The police closed their missing persons case.
Sarah left Montgomery in 1961 and never returned.
Attorney General Bill Baxley
Bill Baxley had become Alabama’s Attorney General in 1971. He considered it part of his job to try to uncover evidence of Alabama’s murderous racist past.
In 1976 Edward R. Fields— founder of the “National States’ Rights Party” and “Grand Dragon” of the New Order Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — sent Baxley a threatening letter regarding Baxley’s policy. Baxley famously wrote back, telling Fields, “Kiss my ass.”
KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr
In a conversation with Raymond Britt, Britt told Baxley that he, Britt, had left the Klan after he and the others had killed Edwards.
On February 20, 1976 Baxley gave Britt immunity for his testimony and filed first-degree murder charges against Livingston, Alexander, and York.
Because the cause of Edwards’s death was difficult to determine, the court twice denied the indictments.
“Merely forcing a person to jump from a bridge does not naturally and probably lead to the death of such a person,” Judge Frank Embry ruled.
The intervention that ended the investigation came from the FBI. It informed Baxley that Henry Alexander was their primary Klan informant in the area and asked Baxley to give him “some consideration.”
“Consideration” was something Alexander had enjoyed many times. Alabama had previously indicted Alexander for four church bombings, the bombings of two homes, and the assault of a black woman riding on a bus, He was never prosecuted.
At that point, unable to proceed with any confidence in a conviction, Baxley abandoned the case against the men and dropped all charges .
Henry Alexander’s conscience
Jimmy York died in 1979
Henry Alexander died in 1993, but before he did he confessed and told the whole story to his wife Diane. One of the things he said was, “That man never hurt anybody. I was just running my mouth. I caused it.”
She was sickened by the story. Ashamed. “Henry lived a lie all his life, and he made me live it, too,” she said. Alexander’s family refused to believe the confession and wanted nothing to do with the revelation Diane wanted.
After Henry’s death, Diane wrote to Sarah Jean Salter who lived in Buffalo, NY. “I hope maybe one day I can meet you to tell you face to face how sorry I am,” the letter said. “May God bless you and your family and I pray that this letter helps you somehow.”
Later she met in person with Melinda O’Neill, Edwards’s daughter, who was three at the time of her father’s murder.
In 1997, as a result of requests by Willie Edwards’ daughter Malinda Edwards, the Alabama Department of Vital Statistics changed her father’s cause of death from “unknown” to “homicide.” (Northeastern University School of Law entry)
A 1999 Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict any of the surviving suspects for the murder of Willie Edwards Jr. (see Feb 14)
Raymond C. Britt died in December 2004
In September 1993, the FBI began an investigation into its own possible part in preventing a prosecution of the murder. (NYT article)
On July 9, 2013, the US Justice Department officially closed its investigation with the following statement. It is assumed that the redacted name is that of Sonny Livingston.
The State of Alabama has declined to authorize a third prosecution of XXXX, the only living subject, under Alabama law. It should be noted that additional witnesses and subjects have died since the second grand jury declined to indict based upon insufficient evidence, and all individuals other than XXXXXX alleged to have had direct knowledge of this incident are now deceased. Accordingly, this matter should be closed. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama concurs in this recommendation. (justice.gov site)
On June 3, 1946 the US Supreme Court had found 6 - 1 in favor of Irene Morgan in Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia. The decision stated that segregated seating on interstate buses an "impermissible burden on interstate commerce."Southern carriers managed to dodge the Morgan decision, however, by passing segregation rules of their own, and those rules remained outside the purview of state and federal courts because they pertained to private businesses.
Women’s Political Council
Jo Ann Robinson
The Women’s Political Council (WPC) of Montgomery, Alabama, was established in 1946 by Mary Fair Burks to inspire African Americans to ‘‘live above mediocrity, to elevate their thinking … and in general to improve their status as a group’ and in 1950, Jo Ann Robinson became WPC president.As president, she began to study the issue of bus segregation, which affected the many blacks who were the majority of riders on the city system. First, members appeared before the City Commission to report abuses on the buses, such as blacks who were first on the bus being required later to give up seats for whites as buses became crowded. The commission had acted surprised, but did nothing.In 1953 Robinson and other local black leaders met with Montomery's three commissioners and complained that the city did not hire any black bus drivers, that segregation of seating was unjust, and that bus stops in black neighborhoods were farther apart than in white ones, although blacks were the majority of the riders. The commissioners refused to change anything, but Robinson and other WPC members met with bus company officials on their own. The segregation issue was deflected, as bus company officials said that segregation was city and state law, but the WPC achieved a small victory, as the bus company officials agreed to have the buses stop at every corner in black neighborhoods, as was the practice in white neighborhoods. (Robinson bio)
On June 19, 1953, Reverend T. J. Jemison of Baton Rouge, La., led a boycott of the city's bus system's segregated seating policy. They stop riding for eight days, staging what is believed to be the civil rights first bus boycott. Earlier in March, the City Council had passed Ordinance 222, which permitted blacks to be seated on a first-come-first-served basis, but the drivers, all white, refused to comply.On June 25, 1953, to end the boycott, the city and blacks agreed to a compromise: the two side front seats of buses were to be reserved for whites and the long rear seat was for African Americans. The remaining seats were to be occupied on a first-come-first-served basis.
In 1952, Women's Army Corps Sarah Keys, in uniform, was returning home from Fort Dix, NJ and refused to give up her seat. Her father, a veteran himself, encouraged her to challenge the policy.On September 1, 1953, in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, Sarah Keys became the first African American to challenge "separate but equal" in bus segregation before the Interstate Commerce Commission. The initial reviewing commissioner declined to hear her case, but on November 7 the Interstate Commerce Commission in Keys vs. Carolina Coach Company case that racial segregation on interstate buses a violation of the Interstate Commerce Act.
Rev Martin Luther King, Jr
January 24, 1954 King delivered a trial sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. On April 14, he will accept the call to Dexter's pastorate, and on May 2 he delivered first sermon as Dexter's minister. On October 31, he officially becames pastor of Dexter.
On March 2, 1955, nine months before the Rosa Parks arrest, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin boarded a Montgomery city bus after school to head home. As it filled up, a white woman was left standing, and the bus driver ordered the 15-year-old Colvin to get up and move to the back. She refused, police were called. They dragged Colvin off the bus in handcuffs. On March 18, 1955, she was convicted of refusing to move to the back of the city bus and having assaulted the policeman who removed her from the vehicle. (see Claudette Colvin for full story) (NYT article)
On April 19, 1955 police arrested Aurelia Browder (36 years old) for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white rider in Montgomery, AL.
Mary Louise Smith
On October 21, 1955, police arrested Mary Louise Smith (age 18) for the same reason. Smith, along with Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald and Claudette Colvin) will be part of the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit.
Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott
December 1, 1955: police arrested Rosa Parks after she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a crowded Montgomery city bus. The night of Parks’ arrest, Jo Ann Robinson called the other Women’s Political Council leaders and they agreed that this was the right time for a bus boycott. Robinson stayed up all night copying 35,000 handbills by a mimeograph machine at Alabama State College to distribute the next day. She called students and arranged to meet them at elementary and high schools in the morning. The boycott will last 381-days.
Friday 2 December 2
Jo Ann Robinson drove to the various Montgomery schools to drop off the handbills to the students and ask students to take them home for their parents. The handbills asked blacks to boycott the buses the following Monday, December 5, in support of Parks. By Friday night, word of a boycott had spread all over the city. That same night, local ministers and civil rights leaders held a meeting and announced the boycott for Monday. With some ministers hesitant to engage their congregations in a boycott, about half left the meeting in frustration. They decided to hold a mass meeting Monday night to decide if the boycott should continue.
Monday 5 December 1955
Rosa Parks was convicted and fined for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by Martin Luther King Jr., began on this day. Most of the 50,000 African Americans living in Montgomery supported the boycott by walking, bicycling and car-pooling. The one-day boycott was so successful that the organizers met on Monday night and decided to continue. They created the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), It was under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Edgar Nixon. Jo Ann Robinson served on the group’s executive board and edited their newsletter.
Thursday 8 December 1955
Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, a fare equal to the cost to ride the bus, in support of the boycott. When word of this reached city officials on December 8, the order went out to fine any cab driver who charged a rider less than 45 cents.
December 17, 1955
Rev Martin Luther King, Jr and other MIA representatives met with white leaders in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the bus dispute. The boycott, initially launched as a one-day statement of protest, had been going on for nearly two weeks at this point.
December 30, 1955
Montgomery Mayor W. A. Gayle urged Montgomery citizens to patronize city buses or risk losing the bus company's business
January 3, 1956: Montgomery City Lines suggested to the city commission that unless fares were doubled, it would have to shut down because it was losing as much as twenty-two cents a mile. The fare increase was approved the following day. January 12, 1956: in response to the Montgomery's rejection of its most recent offer to end the boycott, the MIA executive board decidedto boycott the buses indefinitely.January 24, 1956: Montgomery Mayor Gayle urged whites to stop offering rides to blacks who work for them.January 26, 1956: two motorcycle policemen stopped Martin Luther King for traveling 30 mph in a 25 mph zone. He was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, and jailed. Ralph Abernathy arrived to bail him out; as a crowd gathered at the jail, prison officials escorted King out of the jail and drove him back to town. According to King, on this day and the previous two more than one hundred traffic citations were issued to car pool drivers. Later that evening, a group of King's friends decided to organize protection for him. Seven Montgomery Improvement Association mass meetings were held to accommodate black residents interested in hearing the story of King's arrest. King begins to get threatening phone calls.January 30, 1956,: speaking at an afternoon meeting held after his arrest on speeding charges and following reports of MIA dissension had appeared in the press, King insisted that MIA leaders should continue the bus boycott. He told the Executive Board members of the Montgomery Improvement Association, "If we went tonight and asked the people to get back on the bus, we would be ostracized....My intimidations are a small price to pay if victory can be won,"At 9:15 p.m., while King spoke at a mass meeting, his home was bombed. His wife and daughter were not injured. Later King addressed an angry crowd that gathered outside the house, pleading for nonviolence.
Browder v. Gayle begun
February 1, 1956: on behalf of five African American women [Aurelia S. Browder, Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald, and Jeanette Reese] who had been mistreated on city buses, Fred D. Gray and Charles D. Langford filed a Federal District Court petition that becomes Browder v. Gayle. The Gayle named was the Mayor. The suit challenged the legality of separate seating on Montgomery’s municipal buses.
February 2, 1956: Jeanetta Reese withdrew from the suit filed by Gray and Langford, explaining that she and her husband had been threatened with economic retaliation and violence.
February 10, 1956: eleven thousand people attending a Citizens' Council rally in Montgomery cheered Mayor Gayle and Police Commissioner Sellers for their support of segregation on Montgomery buses. February 13, 1956: Judge Eugene Carter directed the Montgomery county grand jury to determine whether the boycott of Montgomery buses violated Alabama's anti-boycott law. February 18, 1956: Fred D. Gray was charged by the Montgomery Grand Jury with "unlawful appearance as an attorney" for representing Jeanetta Reese after she had withdrawn from the suit. February 21, 1956: a Montgomery grand jury indicted 89 leaders of the boycott, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, for violating a 1921 state statute forbidding boycotts without "just cause."Grand jurors repudiated anti-segregation efforts in the grand jury report that accompanied the indictment. "In this state we are committed to segregation by custom and law; we intend to maintain it," the grand jury wrote. "The settlement of differences over school attendance, public transportation and other facilities must be made within those laws which reflect our way of life."As the indicted boycott leaders surrendered themselves into custody at the police station, hundreds of African American supporters gathered outside in a show of support for their efforts to challenge racial discrimination and fight segregation in Alabama.Of those indicted, only Dr. King was prosecuted. Despite defense evidence showing that the boycott was peaceful and that discriminatory bus service inflicted harm on the African American community, Dr. King was quickly convicted, fined $1000, and given a suspended jail sentence of one year at hard labor.The indictment and Dr. King's conviction strengthened local African Americans' resolve to fight segregation and attracted national attention to the growing civil rights movement.
108 days after boycott began…
March 22, 1956: King was found guilty of violating the boycott statute in Montgomery, Ala. and fined $500. When he decided to appeal, the judge added 386 days of imprisonment.
Browder v. Gayle continues
March 27, 1956: the Alabama Attorney General filed a motion urging dismissal of the Browder v. Gayle federal suit.June 5, 1956: a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled 2-1 in Browder v Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment protections for equal treatment. The court further enjoined the state of Alabama and city of Montgomery from continuing to operate segregated buses.
Supreme Court’s final non-decision
November 13, 1956: the US Supreme Court declined the appeal of a US District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that had declared unconstitutional Alabama's state and local laws requiring segregation on buses, thereby ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Court affirmed the ruling by the three-judge Federal court that had held the challenged statutes "violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."December 19, 1956: federal marshals handed Montgomery Mayor Gayle official written notice that the Montgomery buses be desegregated.
December 28, 1956: the black community returned to the Montgomery buses but faced the threat of violence from some whites who resented the boycott and its results.In a terrifying development, snipers began to target the buses soon after integrated riding commenced. On the evening of December 28, 1956, shots were fired into a desegregated bus traveling through an African American neighborhood. Rosa Jordan, a 22-year-old black woman who was eight months pregnant, was shot in both legs while sitting in the rear of the bus. She was transported to Oak Street General Hospital, but doctors were hesitant to remove a bullet lodged in her leg, fearing it could cause Jordan to give birth prematurely. She was told she would have to remain in the hospital for the duration of her pregnancy. After the bus driver and passengers were questioned at police headquarters, the bus resumed service. Less than an hour later, in approximately the same neighborhood, the bus was again targeted by snipers but no one was hit.These shootings followed two earlier sniper attacks on Montgomery buses that occurred the week before but targeted buses carrying no passengers and resulted in no injuries. On the night of Jordan’s shooting, Montgomery Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers ordered all buses to end service for the night. The following day, three city commissioners met with a bus company official and decided to suspend all night bus service after 5:00 p.m. until after the New Year’s holiday. The curfew policy did not end until January 22, 1957.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
January 10, 1957: following the Montgomery Bus Boycott victory and consultations with Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, and others, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invited about 60 black ministers and leaders to Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. Their goal was to form an organization to coordinate and support nonviolent direct action as a method of desegregating bus systems across the South. In addition to Rustin and Baker, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Rev Joseph Lowery of Mobile, Rev Ralph Abernathy of Montgomery, Rev C.K. Steele of Tallahassee, all played key roles in this meeting.
That same day, four black churches and two pastors' homes were bombed. All four black churches bombed - Bell Street Baptist Church, Hutchinson Street Baptist Church, First Street Baptist Church, and Mt. Olive Church - had supported the bus boycott and the targeted pastors were civil rights leaders: Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy of First Street Baptist Church who was a prominent boycott leader and proponent of desegregation and Reverend Robert Graetz, white minister of the predominantly black Trinity Lutheran Church, had actively supported the bus boycott.January 12, 1957: Reverend Abernathy announced plans for Sunday service, telling a reporter that "despite the wreckage and broken windows we will gather as usual at our church" and offer special prayers for "those who would desecrate the house of God."January 13, 1957: congregations held Sunday services amidst the bombed debris.Two white men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, Raymond Britt and Sonny Livingston, were indicted in February 1957 after confessing to the bombings. An all-white jury acquitted them of all charges in May 1957, while spectators cheered.
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November 29, 2012: thirteen officers shot and killed 43-year-old driver Timothy Russell and his 30-year-old passenger, Malissa Williams, after they led police on a 22 minute chase. It started when a second district officer said a gunshot was fired from their car as they drove passed police headquarters downtown. The thirteen officers fired 137 shots, striking Russell 23 times and Williams 24 times. No gun was found in the suspect’s vehicle.
60 days later…
January 29, 2013: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Safety Director Martin Flask, and Chief Michael McGrath reported that at least 63 Cleveland Police cars were involved in the pursuit or played some role in the chase that ended with police firing 137 shots.
192 days later
August 9, 2013: Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath announced that 75 officers faced discipline for their involvement in the 60-car high speed pursuit last Nov. 29 that began downtown and ended in East Cleveland. The internal charges range from engaging in a chase without permission to providing false information on duty reports. Nineteen of them also will have disciplinary hearings that could result in temporary suspensions. None will be terminated.
May 30, 2014: a grand jury indicted six police officers involved in the November 2012 car chase.The grand jury indicted a patrol officer on two charges of manslaughter and five supervisors on charges of dereliction of duty for failing to control the chase.Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said, based on the law, he didn't seek charges against the other 12 officers who fired shots.Patrol officer Michael Brelo, indicted on manslaughter charges, fired at least 15 shots, including fatal shots, while standing on the hood of the car after the vehicle was trapped by police cruisers and other officers had stopped firing."The driver was fully stopped. Escape was no longer even a remote possibility. The flight was over," McGinty said.
Officers return to work
June 12, 2014: the city of Cleveland announced that former Sgt. Michael Donegan would return July 11 as a patrol officer and would receive back pay since his termination in June 2013. He would return to the rank of sergeant. Officials said Donegan had "disengaged himself" from the chase even though he recognized the enormous scope of the situation.Two other supervisors -- Paul Wilson and Ulrich Zouhar – demoted for violating various protocols, would also return in July to their previous ranks as a result of arbitration.
US Department of Justice
June 17, 2014: the Department of Justice opened a wide-ranging civil rights investigation into the Cleveland case that could lead to years of court oversight and mandated controls on the use of force.July 11, 2014: Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell refused to place a gag order on Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty in the case of an indicted Cleveland police officer Patrolman Michael Brelo who is accused of shooting unarmed suspects Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.O'Donnell said that Brelo's attempt at the gag order "falls short of demonstrating a substantial probability that his right to a fair trial will be prejudiced by McGinty's public statements.'' Brelo was accused of two counts of voluntary manslaughter and has pled not guilty to the charges.
July 16, 2014: U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster announced that Cleveland had settled a federal lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money with the families of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. The settlement was dependent upon a judge's approval in Cuyahoga County Probate Court, where the estates were set up to oversee any awards from the lawsuit. A probate judge would decide whether the settlement is fair and just. Nothing had been filed on it Wednesday."The court held a settlement conference with clients and counsel on July 14,'' Polster wrote. "As a result of negotiations, the above captioned case has settled, subject to Probate Court approval.''November 18, 2014: without any major filings or motions from either side, the city of Cleveland settled a wrongful death suit with the families of Timothy Russell and Marissa Williams for $3 million. Police killed Russell and Williams at the end of a car chase that most likely started when a cop mistook the backfire of a car for a gunshot.
Reverse discrimination claim
November 28, 2014: nine non-African American Cleveland police officers accused the police department of racial discrimination in the aftermath of the deadly November 29, 2012 chase in a federal lawsuit. The officers—eight white officers and one Hispanic—claimed the department has a history of treating non-black officers who shoot black residents "more harshly" than black officers involved in shootings, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio. (see December 8, 2015)March 17, 2015: Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell denied a request by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty’s office to dismiss one of the attorneys representing Michael Brelo, the Cleveland police officer charged with the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. McGinty had argued that it was a conflict of interest for attorney Patrick D'Angelo to represent Brelo since the attorney also represented the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, the union of rank-and-file officers. O'Donnell wrote in his decision that the situation "does not demonstrate an actual conflict of interest," and that Brelo's right to an attorney of his choice outweighs any risk of a conflict.March 23, 2015: attorneys for the Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo charged in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams filed a motion asking to waive a jury trial. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell would consider the motion at a hearing Jury selection was scheduled to begin April 2.March 26, 2015: Brelo would not have his case heard by a jury. Judge John P. O'Donnell would decide the case.Prosecutors had filed a motion opposing the move, arguing that dismissing a jury in this case would be an "injustice" to the communities of Cleveland and East Cleveland. The motion pointed out that the police officers involved in the shooting were all white, but the victims were black."It is only fair to the community that African-Americans have the chance to be a part of the jury in this case," the statement said.O'Donnell rejected that argument, writing, "I have no basis in law to decline to allow Brelo to waive a jury."
Judge John P. O’Donnell
March 30, 2015: Judge John P. O'Donnell with the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court denied several requests by the attorneys of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo to have his case dismissed.Brelo's attorneys asked to have the case dismissed based on Garrity rights, which prevent a public official from making incriminating statements against themselves during investigations carried by their employers.O’Donnal also denied a motion to have the case dismissed based on qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a defense available to state and federal officials -- including police officers -- that asks whether the defendant knew whether they were breaking an established law at the time of the incident.April 9, 2015: on the third day of testimony, Cleveland police officer Michael Demchak refused to testify. Prosecutors had got through just a couple basic questions about the identity and work history of Demchak before he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on the witness stand.According to a report from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Demchak was one of the 13 officers that fired their guns on the night of November 2012, when the two unarmed suspects were killed. Investigators had concluded Demchak fired his gun four times.April 27, 2015: Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell declined to acquit Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo and bring an end to his voluntary manslaughter trial before hearing any defense witnesses. O'Donnell, ruling on a defense request for the acquittal, ruled that the prosecution has presented enough evidence in the trial to warrant hearing the other side's case.In his ruling, O'Donnell wrote, "taking the evidence in a light most favorable to the state, at least 34 of Brelo's 49 shots were reasonable to deal with a perceived threat. If he is eventually found guilty of voluntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt in the face of his affirmative defense that all of his shots were legally justified it will mean only that he was not justified in taking one or more of those last 15 shots to confront the perceived threat."
May 23, 2015: Judge John P. O'Donnell acquitted Michael Brelo. O’Donnell stated, ““The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Michael Brelo, knowingly caused the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.” (article) (see May 26)
May 26, 2015: dozens of people marched through the streets of downtown Cleveland demanding changes to the city's criminal justice system, With chants of "We want justice, we want it now," and "We can't wait," the marchers said they were tired of waiting for authorities to make changes on their own. They delivered letters to prosecutors and the mayor listing their demands.May 27, 2015: authorities said that Cleveland police Officer Michael Brelo allegedly engaged in a fight with his twin brother during a night of drinking. Michael Brelo and his brother, Mark, faced assault charges. The fight between the twins occurred at Michael Brelo's home after 4 a.m. on May 27, according to police in Bay Village, Ohio.May 29, 2015: while acknowledging that he cannot appeal an acquittal, prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty of Cuyahoga County said that Judge John O’Donnell made serious errors before finding officer Michael Brelo not guilty in the deaths of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, and he wants an appeals court to order the judge to correct the record.McGinty said that Judge O’Donnell’s reasoning in the voluntary-manslaughter trial of Officer Michael Brelo could set a legal precedent that would “endanger the public,” and that that Officer Brelo’s acquittal was based on the judge’s mistaken analysis of laws concerning police use of deadly force and on homicide involving more than one person who fired shots. He said the judge had also considered the wrong lesser charge — felonious assault — when he should have considered attempted voluntary manslaughter or aggravated assault.“As it stands, the trial court’s verdict will endanger the public, allow for one of multiple actors to escape culpability and lead to more unnecessary deaths by police-created crossfire situations,” Mr. McGinty said in his filing with the appeals court. “This court must return the case with the corrections of law to the trial court with instructions to deliberate and reach a verdict with the correct application of the law and correct determination of lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter — attempted voluntary manslaughter or aggravated assault,” he said.June 5, 2015: East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said the city decided not pursue charges against the 12 officers involved in the 137 shot police chase."After further conversations with prosecutors, the prosecutors involved did say to me that it's unlikely that those charges will be filed based on the evidence available," Norton said” ...The reality is that we really were interested in bringing charges against those 12, because I really want to know was this within the bounds of the law or outside the bounds of the law? That's really my concern,"Norton had previously stated the city was considering filing negligent homicide charges against the 12 police officers. (see June 7)June 7, 2015: Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was charged with assaulting his brother .
June 22, 2015: U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko gave the green light to a lawsuit filed against the city of Cleveland by police Sgt. Johnny Hamm who claimed he was wrongfully suspended for Facebook posts he made about the 2012 police chase and fatal shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.Boyko wrote that Hamm had a "plausible claim for deprivation" of his right to due process, if what Hamm alleges is true. Boyko wrote that the complaint over the Facebook posts was lodged by police Chief Calvin Williams and decided at a disciplinary hearing that was also presided over by the chief."These allegations raise the claim, beyond the speculative level, that Plaintiff was denied a meaningful hearing due to the bias and/or conflict of interest of the supervisory official, Chief of Police, Calvin D. Williams," Boyko wrote.
June 30, 2015: Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty announced that the misdemeanor trial for five white Cleveland police supervisors accused of failing to control a high-speed car chase that led to two unarmed black people being killed in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire would be held in a predominantly black suburb, not in county court.McGinty said officials in East Cleveland, where the November 2012 car chase ended and the shooting occurred, contacted his office about trying the case in that suburban city after a judge acquitted a white Cleveland patrolman last month on felony manslaughter charges for his role in the shooting deaths of driver Timothy Russell and passenger Malissa Williams.McGinty said the same misdemeanor charges against the supervisors will be filed in East Cleveland and county prosecutors will help try the case, which had been set for trial in county court on July 27.July 9, 2015: Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty offered to drop charges against the five white police supervisors accused of failing to stop the 137 shot car chase . Both attorneys said their clients rejected the deal and were prepared to go to trial.
Timothy Russell Malissa Williams 137 Shots
July 24, 2015: Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell dismissed dereliction-of-duty charges against five Cleveland police supervisors involved. O'Donnell's ruling will likely result in the supervisors being tried in East Cleveland Municipal Court, where identical charges were filed on July 2."The fact that duplicative charges are pending in East Cleveland amounts to good cause to dismiss the indictment here," O'Donnell wrote, but officials are waiting for a decision from the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals regarding whether the suburban court has jurisdiction in the case.Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty wants the trial in East Cleveland and asked O'Donnell to dismiss the Common Pleas Court charges. Prosecutors have argued that since the supervisors face misdemeanor charges, they should be tried in municipal court, where misdemeanor cases are generally heard.
“No pay for killer cops!”
November 17, 2015: “No pay for killer cops!” was what the family members of Malissa Williams were chanting earlier in front of Cleveland’s city hall in response to news that Michael Brelo would soon be back policing the streets.“Everybody knows this is murder,” said Alfredo Williams, Malissa’s brother said at a press conference. “I have never heard of anything like this in my life. He knows he did wrong.”
December 8, 2015: U.S. District Judge James Gwin rejected a reverse-discrimination lawsuit in which eight white Cleveland police officers and one Hispanic officer claimed the city placed them on longer stints of restricted duty than their black counterparts.Gwin concluded that the officers produced "no evidence" to support their claims. He wrote that what the group described as evidence were just "short excerpts from dated testimony in unrelated cases that consist of individuals giving general discussion about race" and the city. Records show that the length of restricted duty more depends on the facts of a case than the color of an officer's skin.
January 25, 2016: Cleveland officials said they were firing six police officers involved in the 137-shot barrage.Those officers included Michael Brelo, a patrolman acquitted of manslaughter charges in May for having fired the last 15 shots of the barrage in East Cleveland. Six more officers who fired during the barrage faced suspensions ranging from 21 to 30 days, said Public Safety Director Michael McGrath, the former police chief. A total of 13 officers had been notified they faced administrative discipline, and one of them has retired, McGrath said. (see October 23, 2017)
August 8, 2017: the city of Cleveland announced that it would pay Jessica Barnes, Jasmine Bruce, Dominique Knox, Eric Maxwell, and Tanis Quach, and National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer Jordan Workman $50,000 each for being falsely arrested in May 2015 while they demonstrated against the acquittal of Michael Brelo.The verdict had prompted several protests in and around downtown Cleveland.The six were wrongfully arrested, jailed, and prosecuted for several months, before the charges were finally dismissed.According to the lawsuit, Cleveland Police intentionally kept the protesters in jail to prevent them from returning to the streets to protest. While locked up for 36 hours, they were subjected to bed bugs, contaminated drinking water, and mold.
October 23, 2017: local Cleveland media reported that police officers Michael Farley, Erin O'Donnell, Christopher Ereg, Wilfredo Diaz and Brian Sabolik who had been fired after the 137 shot police chase were reinstated earlier this month after an arbitrator's ruling this summer. The sixth officer, Michael Brelo — the arbitrator ruled that he should remain fired.
On November 7, 2017: Cleveland settled a federal lawsuit filed by Lt. Johnny Hamm who said the city and police Chief Calvin Williams retaliated against him for a series of Facebook posts about the 22-mile police chase that left two people dead.The notice that Hamm reach a settlement with the city was filed in front of U.S. District Christopher Boyko. The city refused to discuss the terms of the settlement
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