On Tuesday evening, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty made public the statements made by the two police officers involved in Tamir Rice’s death. This release comes days after two new reports concluded that Rice’s death was completely avoidable.
Controversy has continued to surround the case, with Rice’s family calling for a special prosecutor to be called in to replace McGinty. The family believes McGinty has a favorable bias towards police. McGinty also previously suggested that the family was pursuing the case for monetary reasons, not for justifce.
Following the release of the officers’ statements, the Rice family released a statement of their own expressing their frustration with the officers receiving special treatment.
“For the prosecutor to allow police officers who are supposed to be targets of a criminal investigation to submit unsworn statements in response to grand-jury subpoenas requiring live testimony is yet again a stunning irregularity that further taints these proceedings,” the statement said. “No ordinary citizen who is under investigation would be afforded this special treatment.”
Meanwhile, despite the earlier reports that said Rice’s shooting was reasonable, experts hired by the Rice family have found the opposite and stated his shooting was not justified. Jeffrey J. Noble, a former deputy police chief, and Roger A. Clark, a former lieutenant in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, both wrote reports concluding that Rice’s death was in fact avoidable. Further, one of the reports calls into question the original two experts’ basic knowledge of the law.
On Nov. 22, 2014, the day of the murder, a man called 911 to report a Black male waving a gun in a playground. Upon his arrival, Officer Tim Loehmann (who was still a probationary officer at the time) exited the police cruiser and shot Rice to death within two seconds of arriving on the scene.
While Loehmann did not hesitate to pull the trigger, both he and Officer Frank Garmback, who was Loehmann’s training officer and driving the cruiser at the time of the incident, hesitated to provide Rice with medical assistance for nearly four minutes after Loehmann shot him.
Jeffrey J. Noble: Officers made a ‘reckless tactical decision’
Lamar Sims, a Colorado prosecutor; W. Ken Katsaris, a law enforcement officer, instructor and consultant in Florida; and Kimberly A. Crawford, a retired FBI agent, wrote the original reports regarding Rice’s death as reasonable. According to Crawford’s conclusion, the question is “whether a reasonable officer, confronting the exact same scenario under identical conditions could have concluded that deadly force was necessary.”
However, at least one police officer deemed that the use of deadly force was not only unnecessary but was completely avoidable and that it was in fact Garmback and Loehmann who escalated the situation by going completely against their training. Noble served as a police officer in California for 28 years and retired as a deputy chief. According to Noble, the previous court cases cited in the original reports are incorrectly applied to the Rice investigation.
In Crawford’s report, she cites Graham v. Conor, where the Supreme Court ruled that “those sitting in judgment of an officer’s use of force must view the relevant facts from the perspective of the law enforcement officer on the scene. Accordingly, the relevant facts are those facts, and only those facts, that were available to the officer at the time the decision to use force was made.”
However, as Noble points out, Crawford’s assessment leaves out what led to the dangerous situation: “Contrary to what Crawford and Sims argue, the Graham test certainly does not mean that a jury cannot assess the officer’s tactics that led up to the use of force. If the officer used reckless tactics that a reasonable officer would not have used under those circumstances, then a jury can conclude that the officer acted unreasonably.” And, according to Noble, Loehmann failed to properly use his training in this situation because he did not formulate a plan before acting.
This distinction calls into question Crawford, Sims, and Katsaris’ knowledge of the law, Noble writes:
While Ms. Crawford and Mr. Sims avoid discussing the tactical reckless decision making of Officers Garmback and Loehmann based on their misunderstanding of the law, Mr. Katsaris simply ignores the officers’ reckless tactics without explanation. Regardless of the reasons for the prosecutor’s experts’ failure to address the officers’ tactical recklessness that created the danger, the tactics alone make Officer Loehmann[‘s] use of deadly force unreasonable.
Those tactics include the decision to drive so close to Rice without first surveying the situation.
Garmback’s statement emphasizes the slippery weather conditions on the day of the murder: “I was travelling at 10 to 12 mph once in the park. The cruiser did slide when I applied the brakes. I am not sure how far. The car did not stop when and where I intended.”
In Loehmann’s statement, he says the conditions on the road were wet due to a light snow on the ground, which he describes as a dusting presumably causing the cruiser to slide.
But while Garmback blames the placement of the car on the slippery conditions, according to Loehmann, “Officer Garmback drove towards the gazebo.” The fact that Garmback drove directly towards Rice is significant because, as stated in the new reports, the officers did not act tactfully because they did not pause to analyze the situation.
Noble’s conclusion states, “It is my opinion that Officer Loehmann should not have been employed by the Cleveland Division of Police and that Officers Garmback and Loehmann exhibited a callous disregard for the life of Tamir by failing to provide immediate basic first aid after Tamir was shot and in their custody.”
Roger Clark: Loehmann ‘was unfit for duty’
Clark, who has four decades of law enforcement experience in various active as well as consulting roles (27 of these years were active), questions and devotes an entire section in his report to why Loehmann was hired to begin with: “Officer Loehmann’s IPD personnel file documents [reveal] an employment history of immaturity, poor judgment, mental instability, emotional breakdown while in possession of his gun (on the range), lying to his supervisors and insubordination.” Had these incidents not been overlooked, Clark writes, Rice’s death would not have occurred making it a “tragic [and] avoidable fatality.”
Loehmann and Garmback both also insist that they repeatedly yelled commands for Rice to show his hands although Garmback admitted the windows for the car might have been up, which would have made these commands (if they were uttered at all) difficult or impossible to hear.
Clark’s report discusses on the critically short time period between the officers’ arrival and the firing of the fatal shot: “There was no time in those 1.7 seconds for Officers Loehmann or Garmback to have issued any intelligible commands to Tamir, much less for Tamir to respond to any commands.”
In addition, Clark’s report provides information received from the Highway Patrol reconstruction of the incident, which states, “Officer Garmback began braking and decelerating 40 to 75 feet away from where the car ultimately came to a stop in front of Tamir” and “Officer Garmback was driving at an estimated speed of 19 miles per hour when he began decelerating.”
This evidence directly contradicts what both officers alleged in their statements.
Clark also found contradictory information among the original three reports regarding the video footage of the shooting:
For example, Kimberly Crawford claims a number of times that the video shows Tamir “reaches toward his right side waist and lifts his jacket.” But Lamar Sims admits that “the video is grainy and it is unclear from the video whether Rice reaches for his gun.” Ken Katsaris appears to initially admit that the video is not “clear” as to whether Tamir is reaching for his waist, then later claimed that the video “shows Rice’s movement toward the waist.”
Given all of the evidence available at the time of the report, Clark concludes, ” it is my opinion to a reasonable degree of professional certainty that the shooting of Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014 was unreasonable, unjustified and entirely preventable.”