By Sheryl Estrada
Tamir Rice. Photo from Facebook.
Two new reports prepared for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot and killed by Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann, was reasonable.
On Nov. 22, the day of the shooting, a local man called 911 and said he saw a Black male waving a gun, which was actuallya realistic-looking toy pellet gun, in a Cleveland playground. A video of the events that later went viral shows Loehmann fired on Rice within moments of arriving on the scene. Rice was not pointing the gun when Loehmann shot him.
Authors of the new reportsreleased Saturday night by the prosecutor’s officeare S. Lamar Sims, a Denver, Colorado-based prosecutor; and Kimberly Crawford, a retired FBI agent. The two worked independently of each other in reviewing the case.
In Sims’ report, he concluded:
There can be no doubt that Rice’s death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking I conclude that Officer Loehmann’s belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat.
Crawford evaluated Loehmann’s actions under the U.S. Constitution.
“When he exited the police car, the officer was likely focused on Rice’s hands as they moved to his waist and lifted his jacket, and not on Rice’s age,” she wrote. “Even if Officer Loehmann was aware of Rice’s age, it would not have made his use of force unreasonable. A twelve-year-old with a gun, unquestionably old enough to pull a trigger, poses a threat equal to that of a full-grown adult in a similar situation.”
She wrote in her conclusion:
According to the Supreme Court, the standard that must be used to evaluate a law enforcement officer’s use of deadly force is one of objective reasonableness It is my conclusion that Officer Loehmann’s use of deadly force falls within the realm of reasonableness under the dictates of the Fourth Amendment.
An attorney for the Rice family, Subodh Chandra, criticized the findings of the reports in a statement posted on Facebook:
The Rice family and Clevelanders have always said that they want the officers who rushed upon and killed 12-year-old Tamir held accountable. The family now believes that the prosecutor’s office has been on an 11-month quest to avoid providing that accountability. Any presentation to a grand jury without the prosecutor advocating for Tamir is a charade. To get so-called experts to assist in the whitewash when the world has the video of what happened is all-the-more alarming.
“We are not reaching any conclusions from these reports,” Timothy J. McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said in a statement. “We have invited attorneys for the Rice family to offer input and/or evidence, and we continue to invite public dialogue regarding the use of deadly force in this and other cases with the goal of preventing these tragic occurrences.”
The investigation will continue, and a grand jury will eventually decide on charges.
The conclusions of bothreportsconflict with aCleveland judge’s opinion. In June, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald B. Adrine actually found probable cause that Loehmann should face chargesincluding “murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction murder.”
City of Cleveland Apologizes in March
In a court document filed on Feb. 27, which was a formal response to a federal lawsuit by the Rice family, the City of Cleveland offered 20 defenses, one of which states that the family’s “injuries, losses and damages were directly and proximately caused by the acts of the Plaintiff’s decedent [Rice], not this Defendant.” The city added that Rice failed to “exercise due care to avoid injury.” Essentially, the city implicated Rice in his own death.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson apologized on March 2for the choice of language the city used in court filings.
“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive, very insensitive to the tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular,” Jackson said. “So we are apologizing today as the City of Cleveland to the family of Tamir Rice and to the citizens of the city of Cleveland for our poor use of words and our insensitivity in the use of those words.”
Loehmann’s Actions and History
Footage of the incident shows that Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, waited nearly four minutes to offer first aidto Rice; during that time they tackled his sister, Tajai Rice, who ran to her brother’s aid.
Questions arose as to whether or not Loehmann was fit for duty. He resigned from his position and joined the City of Cleveland Division of Police in March 2014 after being told the suburban Independence Police Department was preparing to fire him.
In IPD records obtained by CNN, Deputy Chief Jim Polak described an incident at a state range-qualification course in which Loehmann “was distracted and weepy. He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.”