The Shooting Of Tamir Rice Was "Reasonable," New Reports Declare, & People Are Livid
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty released two new reports that found Tamir Rice's shooting was "reasonable" given the circumstances, according to CNN. The reports, released Saturday night on McGinty's website, were commissioned by the prosecutor's office and conducted separately by a Colorado prosecutor and a former FBI veteran and instructor of the agency's academy. McGinty said his office will still continue to prosecute the case against Officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, who were both involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Rice.
On November 22, 2014, a 911 caller reported what looked like a juvenile with what was "probably a fake" handgun outside of a Cleveland, Ohio, recreation center. The details that the person was possibly a juvenile or that the handgun might have been fake were not passed onto Loehmann, who was an officer in training at the time, according to CNN.
Rice had apparently been playing on the swings at the recreation center near his home when the 911 call came in. Video of the incident shows a patrol car pull up near a gazebo where Rice was standing, according to CNN. The toy pellet gun was in the waistband of Rice's pants. Colorado prosecutor S. Lamar Sims, author of one of the two reports commissioned by McGinty's office, said it appears from the video that Rice reaches for his waistband, though that it's unclear whether he reached for the gun. Within two seconds of exiting the patrol vehicle, Loehmann shot Rice, according to CNN.
Rice died the next day, and his name has fallen among the chants of Black Lives Matter protesters who say that Rice's age make this case a particularly clear example of excessive use of police force against black people, according to The New York Times. Kimberly Crawford, a 20-year FBI veteran and the author of the second report, said that Rice's age and the fact that his gun was a toy are irrelevant to whether Loehmann's actions were constitutional, according to her report, which was cited by the Times:
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. Even if Officer Loehmann was aware of Rice’s age, it would not have made his use of force unreasonable. A 12-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.
Prosecutor Sims' report agreed with Crawford's. He noted that the two officers didn't know how old Rice was, meaning assumptions that they shot someone they knew was young were incorrect. The officers have said that they thought Rice was several years older, according to the Times. Sims concluded that Loehmann's actions were "objectively reasonable," according to the Times:
There can be no doubt that Rice's death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking. However, for all of the reasons discussed herein, 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.
The Rice family's attorney, Subodh Chandra, issued a statement Saturday night accusing the prosecutor's office of "whitewashing" the case even though "the world has the video of what happened," according to USA Today. She said McGinty's office is "working diligently to ensure that there is no indictment and no accountability."
But McGinty's office has stressed transparency throughout the case. It said there has not been enough public-facing information in past cases where police used deadly force. Further, McGinty's office scolded the police union, which operates under a double standard when it comes to cooperating with investigations of its employees' conduct, according to USA Today:
It rightly asks the general public to have the courage to cooperate with police in serious criminal investigations, yet when the conduct of officers is being investigated, refuses to help.
In June, a Cleveland judge found probable cause for the charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty against Loehmann, according to CNN. Chandra said that her office is also commissioning outside reports that will be released as they are finished, according to the Times. In the meantime, Twitter users are outraged at the use of the word reasonable in response to Rice's death.