Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said Saturday that residents must respect the decision of a judge to acquit a Cleveland police officer of manslaughter for his involvement in a 2012 incident in which 13 police officers shot an unarmed black man and woman 137 times.
"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," Kasich said in a statement. "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."
Officer Michael Brelo was acquitted by a judge on Saturday in part because medical examiners could not determine in what order all the shots were fired. Of the 13 officers involved in the incident, Brelo -- who shot the victims 15 times while standing on the hood of the car -- was the only one to face charges because prosecutors said he was the only one who waited until the victims no longer posed a threat before shooting them.
The Department of Justice said on Saturday that it would pursue "all available legal options in the case." In December, a Justice Department review of Cleveland's police department found that there was widespread brutality.
Investigators are also trying to determine whether to bring criminal charges against the Cleveland police officers who shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was carrying an airsoft gun, in November. Police opened fire on Tamir within 1 ½ to 2 seconds of pulling up on him in a patrol car, even though he did not point the gun at them.
On Saturday, Kasich, who is weighing a run for the White House in 2016, focused on efforts he had made to improve relations between police and residents after the increased scrutiny of police in his state. Those efforts have included establishing a board to develop uniform standards for hiring and for the use of force in police departments across his state.
"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," Kasich said.
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