This One Line About Tamir Rice's Death Is At The Crux Of Why The Grand Jury Declined To Bring Charges
On Monday, the news that activists and Cleveland residents had been bracing for since November of 2014 came. Nobody will be charged in the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was shot dead by police officers after carrying a toy gun around his neighborhood. Activists have demanded justice in a series of powerful protests since Rice's death. Yet county prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said in a Monday news conference that the officers had "reasonable belief" to fear for their lives, and because of this, no charges will be brought against them.
According to McGinty, it was a "mistaken but reasonable belief" that Rice supposedly reaching for his toy gun implied that he posed a threat to the officers. With that in mind, a grand jury ultimately decided that the two officers would not be charged in relation to Rice's death. This "reasonable belief" is at the crux of the case. The decision, though long expected, has left many frustrated with what was (and is) seen as a lack of justice.
Later, speaking about Rice's family, who have been vocal about their expectations of the criminal justice system, McGinty said that he had told Rice's mother that "there was no way" officers could have known that the gun Rice was holding was a toy and not a real firearm. Typically, the kind of gun that Rice was playing with has a neon safety strap to imply that it isn't dangerous, but Rice's gun had been missing it.
Rice's death came shortly after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the two cases are often described in the same breath as being indicative both of police brutality and of disturbing and deeply-held racial perspectives in the United States. The Ferguson Action Council, Black Lives Matter, and other activist groups have repeatedly called for justice for Rice, Brown, and other black citizens who have died at the hands of police. (As in Rice's case, a grand jury did not indict Officer Darren Wilson for charges relating to Brown's death.)
Authorities in Cleveland are expected to call for peaceful protests in the aftermath of the decision. The grand jury had been debating since mid-October. In a statement, Rice's family said, "[We are] saddened and and disappointed by this outcome — but not surprised."