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‘This Case Had Absolutely Nothing To Do With Race’

The judge who presided over the case of the white Cleveland police officer who jumped on the hood of a car and fired 15 shots at the car’s black occupants has one thing to say: it wasn’t about race.

Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was part of a massive police chase in which two black people in a car fled police. The car reportedly backfired which police say they thought was gunfire so they began shooting at the car, firing over a hundred shots at the vehicle.

Once the shooting was over, Brelo jumped on the hood of the car and fired 15 shots through the windshield. Both occupants were killed in the incident.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell found Brelo not guilty in May on two counts of manslaughter for the 2012 deaths. With racial tensions so high between the public and the legal system, it didn’t take long for accusations to pour in that a racist system favored the white officer.

But the judge isn’t having it.

“I have gotten letters from people who tell me what a ‘piece of shit I am’ and my verdict was racist,” O’Donnel told Politico in an exclusive interview Friday.  “I reject all that entirely. This case had absolutely nothing to do with race. This case had to do with whether the prosecutor proved beyond a reasonable doubt whether this crime had been committed, and had to do with the defendant being legally justified in shooting that night. I understand people have their opinions, and if they disagree with my ultimate decision of the facts in this case, namely that the case wasn’t proved beyond a reasonable doubt, they are entitled to that. But I reject categorically the notion this case had anything to do with race or that I am a racist.”

The legal explanation for the ruling can be confusing, but the prosecution had to prove that the officers’ bullets actually caused the death, opposed to the bullets of other officers who were also shooting at the couple.

The judge ruled the prosecution failed to prove that it was Brelo who killed the occupants and not a different officer who was firing. He also found that the officer’s fear for his life was legitimate and justified his actions. [Here’s The Legal Explanation For Why The Cleveland Police Officer Wasn’t Convicted]

This is just the latest official to dismiss allegations that the legal system is tainted with racial bias. The attorney for McKinney police officer Eric Casebolt, who resigned after a video showed him pulling a gun at a mostly black pool party, said Casebolt was “disgusted” by the allegations of racism.

O’Donnel speaking out comes just after a different Ohio judge said there was probable cause to charge the officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir rice with murder. The officer shot the child last year allegedly because he was holding a pellet gun.

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