Two reports that concluded a white police officer used reasonable force when he shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, released over the weekend, are angering activists who believe the officer should be held accountable and the officers who are being investigated.
Last November, Tamir, who was black, was shot by police who arrived to answer a 911 call that a man was waving a gun in a Cleveland park. Though Rice had a pellet gun, the orange markings that differentiated it from a real weapon had been removed, the Wall Street Journal added.
White officer and rookie Timothy Loehmann, who has since resigned from his post with the department, shot Rice seconds after his partner pulled their cruiser to within five feet of the boy. Loehmann shot Tamir twice in the abdomen; he died the next day.
The investigations were conducted by two separate agencies at the request of the investigating prosecutor’s office ahead of the case’s presentation before a grand jury. The officer hasn’t yet been charged criminally for Tamir’s death, and it’s still unclear whether he will be. One of the reports was conducted by a senior prosecutor in Denver and the other by a retired FBI agent. A third reconstructed the scene of the Tamir’s shooting and was conducted by the Cudell Recreation Center.
The conclusion: the officer used reasonable force since he believed when he arrived at the scene that Rice posed a serious threat. Critical information — including the fact that the suspect may have been a juvenile and the weapon may have been fake — were not communicated to the officers when the 911 call was relayed, and therefore the report concluded that he couldn’t have known about either. Those details, therefore, are irrelevant, Mother Jones added.
“There can be no doubt that Rice’s death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking,” said S. Lamar Sims, who was involved in one of the investigations. “(But) 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 reports’ release has angered groups on both sides of the issue — activists who want the white officer indicted for killing Tamir Rice and the officers themselves.
Activists have accused Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty of trying to taint the grand jury process and prevent Tamir’s family from getting justice, a member of the Cleaveland 8, Edward Little, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“This community has lost all hope in this prosecutor to be fair and impartial. The officers here are being given special treatment.”
McGinty said his office was not reaching any conclusions based on the reports.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Union is trading barbs with McGinty over the investigation process. The prosecutor pointed out police have not cooperated, but Union President Steve Loomis argued that they don’t have to, according to CBS News.
“What he expects us to do, because we’re police officers, is just ignore the Constitution. We have rights like every other American citizen out there. We have rights just like the bad guys that we’re interviewing.”
But at the heart of all this fighting and division is one dead child, Tamir Rice. Mother Jones pointed out in its review of the reports that Loehmann and his partner left him bleeding on the street for four minutes after he was shot, which is in violation of standard procedure. A law enforcement expert also said the way the officers approached the scene was “ludicrous” and improperly handled.
Rice’s family is understandably upset and released its own statement in the wake of the reports.
“The family now believes that the prosecutor’s office has been on an 11-month quest to avoid providing that accountability. Any presentation to a grand jury–without the prosecutor advocating for Tamir–is a charade. To get so-called experts to assist in the whitewash–when the world has the video of what happened–is all the more alarming.”
[Photo Courtesy Angelo Merendino / Getty Images]