Cleveland Officer Will Not Face Charges in Tamir Rice Shooting Death
The Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year will not face state criminal charges, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office announced Monday.
The decision by grand jurors was the end of a lengthy investigation that was criticized by Tamir’s family and by activists, who called the shooting senseless and said the officer should have been charged with murder months ago.
Tamir, who was black, was carrying a replica gun outside a recreation center when someone called 911. The caller cautioned that Tamir was probably a juvenile and that the weapon was “probably fake,” but that information was not relayed to the two officers who responded, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.
Surveillance video, which has been widely circulated online, showed Officer Garmback pulling the police cruiser within a few feet of Tamir, and Officer Loehmann, who is white, stepping out of the car and almost immediately firing his gun. Tamir died hours later. His partner, Officer Garmback, was also not indicted.
Timothy J. McGinty, the county prosecutor, who made the announcement at a news conference, said that while “this was a perfect storm of human error,” the evidence considered by a grand jury over two months “did not constitute criminal action by police.” He noted that the law gives the benefit of the doubt to a police officer “who must make a split second decision.”
Mr. McGinty said it was “indisputable” that Tamir was drawing the weapon from his waistband when he was shot — either to hand it over to the officers or to show them that it was not a real firearm. But Mr. McGinty said there was no way for the officers to know that as they pulled up.
He said he “appreciated the sincere emotion and concern of all citizens” but asked the community to “respect the process.”
In a statement, Gov. John R. Kasich said that he understood “how this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served,” but urged residents not to “give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us.”
A statement from the office of Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer representing the Rice family, said Tamir’s relatives were “saddened and disappointed by this outcome — but not surprised.”
“It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment,” the statement said. “Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified.”
Tamir was shot on Nov. 22, 2014, two days before a grand jury in Missouri declined to indict the white Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Though Cleveland did not experience protests as large or frequent as in Ferguson, Tamir’s death infuriated demonstrators across the country, and the case has become among the most prominent in a national debate over race and policing.
The official investigation into Tamir’s death moved slowly, with the county sheriff’s office taking over for the police department, and then the prosecutor’s office conducting its own inquiry after the sheriff’s inquiry concluded. Fed up with the pace, some activists used an obscure provision of Ohio law to seek the arrest of the two officers. Though a judge found that probable cause existed for some charges, neither officer was arrested.
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