More than a year after Cleveland Police Department officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a grand jury has decided not to indict him or his partner, Frank Garmback.
Loehmannm, who is White, shot Rice, who is Black, within two seconds of arriving at a recreation center where Rice was playing with a toy gun. The officers were called to the scene after someone called 911, saying that someone, “probably a juvenile” was playing with a gun that was, “probably fake.” The city maintains that the dispatcher did not pass on those details.
Yesterday (December 28), Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty held a press conference to announce the grand jury’s decision, during which he revealed that he recommended to the grand jury that they should not charge the officers. “To charge police, even in a situation as undeniably tragic as the death of her son, the state must be able to show that the officers acted outside the constitutional boundaries set forth by the Supreme Court of the United States. Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunication by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police,” he said.
McGinty explained the decision, saying that an enhancement of the surveillance video was “indisputable” evidence that Tamir was pulling the toy gun from his waist as the officers approached. He also said that Rice’s “size made him look much older and [that he] had been warned that his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day.” McGinty said that Loehmann had “reason to fear for his life,” and that the police radio personnel’s “errors were a substantial contributing factor” to Rice’s death. “The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy. It was horrible, unfortunate and regrettable. But it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime,” he said.
Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson said yesterday that the police department’s Critical Incident Review Committee will conduct an administrative review of the shooting to determine if the officers, the 911 operator or the police dispatcher should be disciplined for their actions. The committee is made up of police officers and community members. Loehmann and Garmback will continue to be on “restricted duty” during the investigation.
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), who represents Cleveland, issued a statement following the decision, saying that McGinty’s “handling of this case, in my opinion, tainted the outcome.” She also said that, “The prosecutor conducted the investigation in a manner that I believe inappropriate and as a result he has lost the trust and confidence of our community, and, indeed, mine as well.”
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund also weighed in, calling out the system and demanding discipline for the officers and a Department of Justice investigation:
This case is one of the most flagrant examples of how the criminal justice system routinely fails in ensuring accountability for the needless killing of unarmed civilians at the hands of police. Rather than “a perfect storm of human error” as Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty described this tragedy, Rice’s death and the lack of accountability for it are a result of racial profiling, incompetent 911 services, over-zealous and reckless policing practices, and a systemic bias in favor of police.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association said that it is “pleased in the grand jury’s thoughtful decision based on the facts of this tragic case.” The statement went on to say, “We respect and appreciate the Grand Jury’s ability to apply the law to the facts of this case without regard to emotion or the self-serving agendas of uninvolved others.”
Tamir’s mother Samaria Rice and her family issued a statement following the announcement. In it, they denounced McGinty’s handling of the case and made it clear that they are not done fighting for justice. The full statement appears below:
My family and I are in pain and devastated by the non-indictment of officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for the murder of our beloved Tamir. After this investigation—which took over a year to unfold—and Prosecutor McGinty’s mishandling of this case, we no longer trust the local criminal-justice system, which we view as corrupt.
Prosecutor McGinty deliberately sabotaged the case, never advocating for my son, and acting instead like the police officers’ defense attorney. 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. In our view, this process demonstrates that race is still an extremely troubling and serious problem in our country and the criminal-justice system.
I don’t want my child to have died for nothing and I refuse to let his legacy or his name be ignored. We will continue to fight for justice for him, and for all families who must live with the pain that we live with.
As the video shows, Officer Loehmann shot my son in less than a second. All I wanted was someone to be held accountable. But this entire process was a charade.
I pray and hope that the federal government will investigate this case.
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach also commented about the DOJ’s review of the city’s investigation of Rice’s death:
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been monitoring the investigation that has been conducted regarding the death of Tamir Rice on Nov. 22, 2014. We will continue our independent review of this matter, assess all available materials and determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws.