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Prosecutor Rules To Not Indict Officer In Tamir Rice Shooting Death

Timothy McGinty called it "a perfect storm of human error" but not a crime.

Jose Luis Magana // Associated Press

The Cleveland, Ohio police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice will not face criminal charges. Prosecutor Tim McGinty made the announcement today (December 28) saying the grand jury has decided not to return an indictment in the 2014 police shooting death. The ruling has been criticized by activists who claim charges should have been brought up months. ago.

Tamir, who was black, was holding a replica gun outside of a recreation center when someone called 911. The caller informed authorities that Tamir was a juvenile and that the gun was most likely “fake,” however, according to reports, authorities say that information was not relayed to the two officers who arrived on the scene, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, both who are white.

Prosecutor McGinty called it “reasonable” to believe that the officer who killed Tamir Rice was facing a threat. The law gives benefit of the doubt to officers who must make “split second” decisions when they believe their lives are in danger.

The decision brings an end to a lengthy investigation that was criticized by outraged activists and Tamir’s family who called the shooting of a minor senseless. In addition to the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the choking death of New York's Eric Garner, Rice's case served as a powerful symbol in the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. The former two deaths also resulted in police not being charged in either incident.

“Prosecutor McGinty deliberately sabotaged the case, never advocating for my son, and acting instead like the police officers’ defense attorney,” she said in a statement. “In a time in which a non-indictment for two police officers who have killed an unarmed black child is business as usual, we mourn for Tamir, and for all of the black people who have been killed by the police without justice.”

The shooting took place on Nov. 22, 2014, as Loehmann and his partner, Officer Frank Garmback, were responding to a call about a man with a gun outside a local recreation center. Although the caller specified to the dispatcher that the person was possibly a child playing with a toy, that information was not relayed to Loehmann and Garmback, who handled the call as an “active shooter” situation, authorities said.

The officers approached the boy in their cruiser, pulling directly up to a park gazebo on snow-covered grass. The car slid, and Loehmann opened the door, yelling “continuously ‘show me your hands’ as loud as I could,” Loehmann said in his statement to the grand jury.

“I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time,” Loehmann said. “I was fixed on his waistband and hand area. I was trained to keep my eyes on his hands because ‘hands may kill.’ ”

But instead of complying, the boy lifted his shirt and reached into his waistband, Loehmann said, prompting the officer to run for cover behind the cruiser.

When he saw Tamir’s elbow moving upward and the weapon coming up out of his pants, Loehmann said, he fired two shots.

This combination of still images taken from a surveillance video and released Nov. 28, 2015, by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office shows Cleveland police officers arriving at Cudell Park following a report of a man with a gun. Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann at the park on Nov. 22, 2014. (Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office via AP)

Loehmann and Garmback both told the grand jury that Tamir appeared to be much older than 12. Prosecutors stressed that Tamir was large for his age — a 175-pound boy who wore size-36 pants and size-12 shoes.

“If we put ourselves in the victim’s shoes, as prosecutors and detectives try to do, it is likely that Tamir — whose size made him look much older and who had been warned that his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day — either intended to hand it to the officers or to show them it wasn’t a real gun,” McGinty said. “But there was no way for the officers to know that, because they saw the events rapidly unfolding in front of them from a very different perspective.”

[Why prosecutors keep talking about Tamir Rice’s size-36 pants]

McGinty called the shooting “this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved.” He confirmed that he had not recommended that the grand jury bring criminal charges against the officers.

The boy’s death came just days before massive protests and unrest would break out in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City after officers in those cities were cleared in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Many activists had hoped that Tamir’s shooting — the death of a boy, in a park, playing with a toy — would yield what has proved largely elusive for police-brutality protesters: an indictment in the case of the police shooting of an African American.

View PhotosProtesters gathered following the announcement that officers were cleared in the fatal shooting of the 12-year-old.

Though thousands of people have been shot and killed by police over the past decade, only 65 officers have been charged with a crime in connection to a fatal on-duty shooting, according to a Washington Post analysis. Of those, only a tiny fraction have been convicted.

[A year of reckoning: Police fatally shoot nearly 1,000]

As night fell, about three dozen demonstrators gathered in the public park where Tamir was shot. They joined hands in the rain for a moment of silence, then began chanting “No justice, no peace” as they marched across town toward the Justice Center.

The decision not to indict “is a burden on the family and the community. But at the same time, it’s a burden on the police department,” said Angel Arroyo, an activist with the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance. Loehmann is “going to have to live for the rest of his life knowing that a 12-year-old boy lost his life. So it’s just pain all the way around for our community.”

[In Cleveland, road to recovery on policing is filled with challenges, entrenchment]

Across the city and the state, public officials sympathized with that sentiment while pleading for patience.

“Tamir Rice’s death was a heartbreaking tragedy and I understand how this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, said in a statement. “We all lose, however, if we give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us.”

The case was initially investigated by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, which turned its findings over to McGinty’s office. As the investigation stretched from weeks to months and eventually past the one-year mark, the Rice family and civil rights activists grew increasingly agitated, convinced that no charges for the officers were forthcoming.

McGinty fueled their frustration by releasing witness statements and other evidence to the press as it was presented to grand jurors — an unusual move that the prosecutor said was intended to provide transparency but that attorneys for Tamir’s family insist was meant to telegraph that McGinty planned to let the officers walk free.

Among the pieces of evidence McGinty released were the assessments of two independent experts hired to review the case. Both found that Loehmann hadacted reasonably.

“There can be no doubt that Rice’s death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking,” one of the experts, S. Lamar Sims, a Colorado prosecutor, said in his report. “However . . . I conclude that Officer Loehmann’s belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat.”

In a statement, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, declared that McGinty’s tactics had “tainted” the investigation.

Tamir’s mother echoed that view.

“Prosecutor McGinty deliberately sabotaged the case, never advocating for my son, and acting instead like the police officers’ defense attorney,” she said in a statement. “In a time in which a non-indictment for two police officers who have killed an unarmed black child is business as usual, we mourn for Tamir, and for all of the black people who have been killed by the police without justice.”

This file, first published at 1:47 p.m. on Dec. 28, has been updated. Cahill is a freelancer. Lowery and Chokshi reported from Washington.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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ThreePalmsII10:05 AM PSTThis was a bad call. It proves once again black lives DO NOT matter. Cops are given the green light to kill blacks.

I would not want to be black. It's too easy to be murdered by cops. And it is condoned in American society. A big thumbs down.

It's odd that some posters here support the death of the child. I assume they'd jump for joy if their brats were gunned down by cops. Most likely they don't have kids or friends because they lack a soul, kind of inhuman.LikeReplyShare3Scuromondo10:16 AM PST [Edited]I think it is clear there are problems, and it is likely that the possibilities include a greater fear of, and a lesser regard for, black life. But there are other possibilities as well: that law enforcement are not sufficiently trained and not connected enough to the citizens they serve , that people have lost respect for authority, that too many people are too heavily armed, etc, etc. I think it is a mistake to think that one can nail down a single cause.LikeReplypmacdee10:00 AM PSTWhy would anyone give a 12 year old a replica handgun and then let them use it unsupervised? That puts him in danger in a place like Cleveland.

Why did the police drive up so close to Tamir? That puts them in danger in a place like Cleveland.LikeReplyShareManchester091310:03 AM PSTIt's not a "replica handgun." It's an Airsoft toy gun.

Why aren't you asking why would anyone be allowed to make and sell such a thing?LikeReplyCrowds Gather9:55 AM PSTJustice was done. The result was appropriate. The lynch mob wasn't satisfied.LikeReplyShareManchester09139:59 AM PSTNope. Not even close. This is why we have charges like involuntary manslaughter. Try again.LikeReply3orwellsdisciple9:47 AM PSTFolks I want to re-post a comment by a one 509Para. This person is or was a self-proclaimed head of an internal affairs divisions. Does this sound like someone with mature, sound judgement, particularly in stressful or complex situations? All you gotta do to set him off is disagree with him...


You are a sheep and a bigoted persont. I have a BA, Masters and didn't lead our IA unit because I lacked integrity. I also worked my way up through the ranks. When I was in IA we fired employees who violated the public trust. Policemen are much more honest and have more integrity than any profession I know. So crawl back into your left wing easy chair and look at the big picture. You know nothing about the sacrifices made every day by police officers. You are biased. Denigrating the profession of law enforcement is no different than demeaning a person because of race, color or creed. By the way our agency had significant minority participation.

LikeReplyShareorwellsdisciple9:46 AM PSTFolks I want to re-post a comment by a one 509Para. This person is or was a self-proclaimed head of an internal affairs divisions. Does this sound like someone with mature, sound judgement, particularly in stressful or complex situations? All you gotta do to set him off is disagree with him...


You are a sheep and a bigoted persont. I have a BA, Masters and didn't lead our IA unit because I lacked integrity. I also worked my way up through the ranks. When I was in IA we fired employees who violated the public trust. Policemen are much more honest and have more integrity than any profession I know. So crawl back into your left wing easy chair and look at the big picture. You know nothing about the sacrifices made every day by police officers. You are biased. Denigrating the profession of law enforcement is no different than demeaning a person because of race, color or creed. By the way our agency had significant minority participation.

LikeReplyShareGiedi Prime9:43 AM PSTThe rate of violent crime in Cleveland is 14.74 incidents per 1000 residents. Ohio's rate is 2.86, the national median is 3.8.

Odds of being a crime victim in Cleveland: 1 in 68. Odds statewide: 1 in 349.

Yeah .... Cleveland has a lot of work to do, and it's not mostly in the cop shops.LikeReplyShareManchester091310:00 AM PSTWhat does any of that have to do with gunning down an innocent 12yr old?LikeReply2socorroman9:36 AM PSTHe's as innocent as a newborn baby.LikeReplyShareamcvt69:47 AM PSTup yoursLikeReplyMoreMost Read

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