A Cleveland police officer feared that his life and the lives of fellow officers were in danger when he fired the final shots of a barrage of police gunfire that killed two unarmed suspects, his attorney said today during opening statements in the patrolman’s trial, reports the Associated Press.
The tactics of the officer could be called into question given that he exposed himself to danger when he stepped onto the hood of a beat-up Chevy Malibu to fire 15 rounds into the windshield of the suspects’ vehicle, attorney Patrick D’Angelo said. But he and 12 officers who shot a total of 137 rounds into the car in November 2012 had ample reason to believe that 43-year-old Timothy Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams were shooting at them, the attorney said.
The officer, charged with voluntary manslaughter, is the only officer charged because prosecutors said he waited until after the initial salvo had ended to reload and discharge the last of the 49 rounds he fired that night. A judge will decide whether he is guilty or innocent. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted.