In a move that many are calling highly unusual, Cleveland community leaders are taking advantage of an Ohio law to bypass what they see as a broken judicial system. Tamir Rice's case will be presented to a judge by local leaders, who want to request murder charges against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of the 12-year-old, The New York Times reported. Permitted under Ohio law, anyone with knowledge of the facts of a case can request an arrest without the police or prosecution's involvement.
Back in November, Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot Rice in a park near his home while the boy played with a toy gun the officer believed to be real. The case was only turned over to prosecutors last week, and no decision on whether to file charges against Loehmann or any other officers has been made.
A lawyer for the Rice family, Walter Madison, told the Times he wasn't aware of any case in Ohio where a citizens' complaint had led to a judge ordering the arrest of a police officer. But because of how other high-profile police shootings have turned out, the Rice family apparently did not have faith in how the process might play out in their case, Madison said. "The writing is on the wall," he said. "If you look at every other instance, it ends up unfavorable to the families."
Rice is the youngest victim in a series of a police-involved deaths of African American males in the past couple of years. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer. In November, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, sparking outrage and unrest in the community and nationwide for several days. Eric Garner was unarmed when he was put in a chokehold by police officers last year in New York. His last moments were captured on video, where Garner could be heard saying "I can’t breathe." Despite the video, a grand jury failed to return an indictment against the officers.
If there's any hopeful news amid all this tragedy, perhaps it's that finally the pattern of grand juries failing to indict may be shifting. On Monday, a grand jury in South Carolina indicted former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager (pictured below) for the April shooting death of Walter Scott. A bystander video surfaced of the unarmed Scott fleeing from Slager, who could be seen shooting Scott in the back several times.
For Rice's family and community, who have waited months for any action by investigators, bypassing the criminal justice system and going directly to a judge might feel like their only recourse.
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