Protests took place in Cleveland over the weekend following the announcement from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty that the grand jury would not indict the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Nov. 2014.
McGinty said in a statement last Monday, “The state must be able to show that the officers acted outside the constitutional boundaries set forth by the Supreme Court of these United States. Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct of police.”
On Nov. 22, 2014, a man made a 911 call to report a Black male with a gun on a playground. Officers Timothy Loehmann (who was still in his probationary period) and Frank Garmback responded to the call. The police cruiser pulled up to Rice, and Loehmann immediately exited the vehicle and gunned Rice down. The officers did not call for medical assistance for the 12-year-old for nearly four minutes after the shooting.
“I’m mad as hell,” Samaria Rice, the boy’s mother, said in an interview after the announcement. She told McGinty the decision was “unacceptable.”
“Due to the corrupt system, I have a dead child,” Rice’s mother said.
McGinty has been receiving criticism for how he has handled Rice’s case for a long time. On New Year’s Day, more than a hundred protesters went to McGinty’s home and chanted for justice for Rice as well as for McGinty to resign from his position. They also called for a federal investigation into Rice’s death.
“New year, no more!” activists said. “McGinty has got to go.”
The protesters engaged in a “die in,” where they lay outside for four minutes to symbolize the amount of time Loehmann and Garmback waited before calling for medical assistance for Rice.
Rice’s family and attorneys have also been insisting that McGinty has spoken like an agent for the defense rather than someone advocating for justice for Rice, and the announcement last week only confirmed this initial fear.
“We did enter this process with every expectation of cooperating and with the hope that the prosecutor would address this in a fair and impartial matter,” said Jonathan Abady, an attorney for the Rice family. “And unfortunately it became clear to us very early on that that was not the case.”
McGinty’s investigation included three “expert” reports that deemed the shooting reasonable as well as repeated instances of bias towards the police. He also accused the Rice family of having economic motivations for pursuing the case.
“They’re very interesting people, let me just leave it at that, and they have their own economic motives,” McGinty said of the Rice family.
Even after making the announcement of no indictments, McGinty said, “That was also my recommendation and that of our office after reviewing the investigation and the law.”
McGinty said that Loehmann’s fear he was in danger was “mistaken but sincere” and argued, “It would be irresponsible and unreasonable if law required a police officer to wait and see if the gun was real.”
But independent reports conducted by experts the Rice family hired reached very different conclusions and criticized the original reports.
“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,” Abady said in a statement. “It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire ‘experts’ to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation.”
Despite the outcry from the community following the grand jury decision, McGinty’s behavior is by no means unique. According to Abady, McGinty’s actions are “the function of a longstanding problem in this country.”
“There’s a historical issue with prosecutors being unable to police and prosecute their own because of the alliance that develops between police and prosecutors,” Abady said.
Rice’s mother firmly believes McGinty intentionally mishandled her son’s case.
“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. In our view, this process demonstrates that race is still an extremely troubling and serious problem in our country and the criminal-justice system.”