Statements From The Officers Involved In Tamir Rice Shooting Still Leave Many Unanswered Questions
On Tuesday, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office released documents by Cleveland Police Department Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, marking the police officers' first statements about the Tamir Rice shooting on Nov. 22, 2014. Just over a year after Rice, who was only 12, died, the statements reveal the officers' detailed descriptions of their response to a call about a young man with a gun in a neighborhood park.
On the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2014, Officers Garmback and Loehmann responded to a report of a "black male sitting on a swing ... pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people." The caller also stated that the gun was probably fake and that the black male might have been a child, but this information was allegedly never passed on to the officers.
Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Loehmann said that he had "very little time" to assess the situation. Parts of the statement, in which Loehmann called the incident an "active shooter situation," read:
Officer Garmback was also yelling "show me your hands. I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time. I was fixed on his waistband and hand area. I was trained to keep my eyes on his hands because "hands may kill." The male appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds. The suspect lifted his shirt reached down into his waistband. We continued to yell "show me your hands." I was focused on the suspect. Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn't fire. I still was yelling the command 'show me your hands.’
We are trained to get out of the cruiser because "the cruiser is a coffin." I observed the suspect pulling the gun out of the waistband with his elbow coming up. Officer Garmback and I were still yelling "show me your hands." 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.
Two seconds after stepping out of the vehicle, Loehmann had fired two shots, one of which hit Rice in the stomach. Rice died from the injury the next day.
The attorney for Rice's family released a statement in response to the testimony of the officers, alleging that they should have had to give an in-person statement, rather than being allowed to turn in a written statement, and claiming that the officers still do not establish that the shooting was reasonable. She wrote:
The officers' statements are inconsistent with one another and the objective video footage contradicts the officers' claims. Loehmann, for example insists that he observed things and took action that would have been physically impossible for any human being to do in the under 2 seconds it took him to shoot a 12-year-old child. While Loehmann claims to have issued at least three commands in under two seconds, Garmback admits the windows to the police vehicle were up, demonstrating that his partner's claims are false.
Loehmann was placed on restricted duty some time after the shooting, but his work history raised questions about whether he should have been hired by the Cleveland Police Department to start. In Nov. 2012, he quit his job with the Independence, Ohio Police Department on the first day after a "dismal" performance review. In September 2013, he failed the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department's written exam with a 46 percent score, falling far short of the required 70 percent to pass. According to an official document obtained by Cleveland.com, Loehmann's records were so troubling that the officers who hired him were both reprimanded for "[failing] to to adequately supervise and review an applicant's background investigation."
Despite a recommendation from a judge to pursue charges, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty has not filed charges against Loehmann or Garmback. No revelatory content came from these statements, and should not affect any potential charges. Rice's family is still pushing for accountability from the Cleveland Police Department, and the timing of the statements' release, along with new, enhanced photos of surveillance video which McGinty's office released Saturday, may indicate coming indictments.