White officer won’t face charges in killing of Cleveland boy

December 29, 2015 2:14 am

 Tamir
Rice was shot by Timothy Loehmann within two seconds of the officer’s
police cruiser skidding to a stop near the boy outside a city recreation
center in November 2014. Photo / AP

A grand jury declined to indict a white rookie police officer in the
killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black youngster who was shot to
death while playing with what turned out to be a pellet gun, a
prosecutor said Monday.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty
said it was “indisputable” that the boy was drawing the pistol from his
waistband when he was gunned down – either to hand it over to police or
to show them that it wasn’t real. But McGinty said there was no way for
the officers on the scene to know that.
“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 said. He said patrolman Timothy Loehmann was justified
in opening fire: “He had reason to fear for his life.”
Tamir was
shot by Loehmann within two seconds of the officer’s police cruiser
skidding to a stop near the boy outside a city recreation center in
November 2014.

Loehmann and his training partner, Frank Garmback, were responding to a 911 call about a man waving a gun.
Tamir
was carrying a borrowed airsoft gun that looked like a real gun but
shot nonlethal plastic pellets. It was missing its telltale orange tip.
A
grainy video of the shooting captured by a surveillance camera provoked
outrage nationally, and together with other killings of black people by
police in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, it
helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a statement,
Tamir’s family said it was “saddened and disappointed by this outcome –
but not surprised.” It accused McGinty of “abusing and manipulating the
grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment.” The family
renewed its request for the U.S. Justice Department to step in and
conduct “a real investigation.”
But echoing the prosecutor, the
family urged anyone disappointed in the grand jury decision to express
that “peacefully and democratically.”
The grand jury had been hearing evidence and testimony since mid-October.
In
explaining the decision not to bring charges, McGinty said police radio
personnel contributed to the tragedy by failing to pass along the
“all-important fact” that the 911 caller said the gunman was probably a
juvenile and the gun probably wasn’t real.
Assistant Prosecutor
Matthew Meyer said it was “extremely difficult” to tell the difference
between the fake gun and a real one, since the orange tip had been
removed. And he said Tamir was big for his age – 5-foot-7 and 175
pounds, with a men’s XL jacket and size-36 pants – and could have easily
passed for someone much older.
Before police arrived, the
youngster was seen repeatedly drawing the gun from his waistband and
pointing it at other children, Meyer said.
“There have been
lessons learned already. It should never happen again, and the city has
taken steps so it doesn’t,” McGinty said.
Among other things, the
Cleveland police department is putting dashboard cameras in every car
and equipping officers with bodycams.
Also, the Cleveland police
department reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department earlier
this year to overhaul its use of force. The settlement was prompted in
large part by a car chase that ended with the killing of a couple in a
137-shot barrage of police gunfire.
McGinty said it was a “tough
conversation” with Tamir’s mother when she was told there would be no
charges. “She was broken up, and it was very hard,” the prosecutor said.
Tamir’s family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the two officers and the city.
An
investigation found that Tamir was shot at distance of between 4½ and 7
feet and that Loehmann fired twice, with one shot missing the boy. Both
officers insisted that they shouted at Tamir repeatedly to show his
hands before Loehmann opened fire.
“With his hands pulling the
gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming
out. I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the
threat to my partner and myself was real and active,” Loehmann told
investigators.
After the boy’s killing, it was learned that
Loehmann had washed out from the police force in the Cleveland suburb of
Independence. Loehmann had “dismal” handgun performance, broke down in
tears at the gun range and was emotionally immature, according to files.
He quit the force before he could be fired.
Two Cleveland police
officers have been disciplined for failing to check Loehmann’s
personnel file before he was hired in Cleveland last year.
After
Monday’s announcement, Tamir’s family charged that McGinty improperly
hired use of-force experts to tell the grand jury that Loehmann’s
actions were reasonable. The family also said that the prosecutor
allowed the officers to read prepared statements to the grand jury
without being subjected to cross-examination.
McGinty urged those
who disagree with the grand jury decision to react peacefully, and
said: “It is time for the community and all of to start to heal.”
State
Sen. Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, called the decision a
“grave miscarriage of justice” but pleaded with the community to remain
focused on positive change and “avoid falling into the traps that have
hampered progress and the broader movement of social equality.”

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