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No Criminal Charges for Cleveland Officers in Shooting Death of 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice

Tamir Rice

A Cleveland grand jury decided on Monday not to bring charges against two police officers involved in the November 2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Cleveland.com reports no criminal charges will be filed against officers Timothy Loehmann, who fatally shot Rice, and Frank Garmback. The grand jury’s decision comes 13 months after the high-profile police shooting, which intensified a nationwide debate about police use of force and galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.

Loehmann and Garmback each stated that they reacted to what they thought was an armed gunman—Rice had been playing with a realistic-looking replica pellet gun with the orange safety barrel cap removed—when the rookie officer shot the child. The officers were called to a park near the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s West Side in response to a report of a “a guy with a pistol” on a playground swing set who was “scaring the shit out of everyone.” The 911 caller added that “the gun was probably fake.”

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty called the Rice shooting “a perfect storm of human error” during a Monday press conference announcing the grand jury’s decision. McGinty said he concluded the officers acted reasonably considering their belief that Rice was armed and that new analysis of video footage of the shooting proved it was “indisputable” that the child was pulling what was believed to be a gun from his waistband.

“The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it,” McGinty said. “Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.”

McGinty added that “it would be irresponsible or unreasonable if the officer was required to wait and see if [Rice’s] gun was real.”

The Washington Post reports that of the more than 975 fatal police shootings in the United States this year, officers were charged with crimes in just eight of those incidents.

Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, issued a statement through her attorneys criticizing the grand jury process and renewing calls for federal charges against the involved officers.

“Prosecutor McGinty deliberately sabotaged the case, never advocating for my son, and acting instead like the police officers’ defense attorney,” the statement read. “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.”

Neither Loehmann nor Garmback has spoken publicly about the Rice shooting but Henry Hilow, Loehmann’s attorney, released a statement which said the officers were grateful for the grand jury’s “thorough review of the facts” and decision not to file charges.

“We respect the justice system and the dedication of the jurors from our community,” Hilow’s statement read. “This case is a tragedy for the Rice family and officers involved. Our thoughts and prayers are with all.”

CNN reports the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association said it was pleased by what it called the grand jury’s “thoughtful decision.”

Cleveland police officials will now conduct an administrative review of the shooting, with disciplinary action still possible if it is determined that any policies or procedures were violated.

“Both of the officers are and will remain on restricted duty. They have been on restricted duty since this incident happened,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters. “That’s part of our process, not to allow officers involved in critical incidents to go back out there into the fray. They will remain on restricted duty until we complete the administrative process.”

A federal review of the case is also ongoing.

“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,” the US Attorney’s Office for Northern Ohio said Monday.

Cleveland officials braced for protests against the grand jury decision. Fox 8 Cleveland reports a small group of people gathered outside the Cudell Recreation Center, enduring cold rain to voice their dissent. Protesters shut down parts of Lorain Avenue near West Boulevard before blocking West 130th Street at the Interstate 71 on-ramp. Demonstrators chanted slogans including “Hey hey, ho ho, these killer cops have got to go.”

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