The Cleveland police officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old boy holding a pellet gun was justified, according to two outside expert reports released Saturday.
On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was playing outside a Cleveland recreation center when he was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann, CNN reports. Officer Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, were responding to a 911 call that said there was “a guy with a pistol.” The caller also said, however, that the gun was “probably fake,” but, according to recordings released by law enforcement, this information was never conveyed to Loehmann and Garmback.
Both experts were given surveillance video of the shooting. The footage shows the police cruiser, driven by Garmback, pulling up next to Tamir. Only two seconds after arriving, the video shows officer Loehmann firing at the 12-year-old.
Kimberly A. Crawford, a 20-year FBI veteran wrote that Loehmann “had no information to suggest the weapon was anything but a real handgun, and the speed with which the confrontation progressed would not give the officer time to focus on the weapon.”
Crawford also said that Tamir’s age and the fact the gun wasn’t real were irrelevant.
“The after-acquired information — that the individual was 12 years old, and the weapon in question was an ‘airsoft gun’– is not relevant to a constitutional review of Officer Loehmann’s actions.”
The second expert, Denver’s Senior Chief Deputy District Attorney, S. Lamar Sims, reported that the gun was in Tamir’s pants and that in the video the boy appears to move his hands toward his waistband. But, he said, it was unclear if he actually reached for the gun.
According to the police department, Loehmann “shouted verbal commands,” but CNN reports that witness interviews did not back up their statement, and the patrol car did not have a dashboard camera. Also, the surveillance video, taken from the recreation center Tamir was playing in front of, did not have audio.
But, even with the lack of evidence, Crawford’s conclusion was that Loehmann reacted reasonably.
“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,” she wrote, though she did note that this opinion was not to say that “Loehmann did not violate Ohio Law or department policy.”
District Attorney Sims agreed with Crawford’s conclusion. He said that Loehmann acted reasonably, based on witness statements and a technical reconstruction of the incident, completed by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“The officers did not create the violent situation. They were responding to a situation fraught with the potential for violence to citizens.”
The two reports were released by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, who requested the reviews as evidence that will be presented to the grand jury. The jury will ultimately decide whether Loehmann will be charged in Tamir’s death.
“We are not reaching any conclusions from these reports,” Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said in a statement. “The gathering of evidence continues, and the grand jury will evaluate it all.”
“Ms. Rice, her family and her counsel are urging the prosecutor’s office to request a charge of aggravated murder against officer Loehmann based on the fact that Tamir was a victim under the age of 13. The aggravated murder statute does not require pre-calculation and design – that is premeditation – where the victim is under the age of 13; all that is required is a purpose to cause death, which is plainly the case when one shoots a gun at someone else.”
After reviewing the two export reports, Subodh Chandra, an attorney for Tamir’s family, said “it’s rather sad the prosecutor’s office gave the material to the media rather than the victim’s family.”
McGinty says the prosecutor’s released the reviews in the interest of being “as public and transparent as possible.”
[Photo Courtesy of Tamir Rice’s Family via the Huffington Post]