U.S.

Tamir Rice Shooting Grand Jury Declines to Bring Charges Against Cleveland Cop

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A mourner looks at a program during the funeral service for Tamir Rice in Cleveland on December 3, 2014. Rice had an Airsoft-type replica gun that resembles a semi-automatic pistol and was fatally shot by a patrol officer after a 911 call reported someone pointing a gun at people at the Cudell Recreation Center. Aaron Jozefczyk/Reuters

An Ohio prosecutor announced on Monday afternoon that a grand jury declined to bring charges against a Cleveland police officer in the November 2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

“The death of Tamir Rice was a tragedy...but it was not by the law that binds us a crime,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said during a press conference on Monday afternoon. 

McGinty said on Monday that he had told the boy’s mother the news of the decision ahead of the public announcement. He described the conversation with her as “tough.”

Rice was killed by 26-year-old officer Timothy Loehmann while playing with a fake gun in a Cleveland park on November 23, 2014. A 911 caller, who has not been identified, twice reiterated to a dispatcher that the gun was likely fake and described Rice as "probably a juvenile." It remains unclear if the dispatcher relayed these details to Loehmann and the other responding officer, Frank Garmback. The dispatcher assigned the incident a code 1, the highest-priority emergency for police.

Rice's death set off national outrage with multiple parties calling for the officer's prosecution. Despite this, experts who have analyzed the shooting have argued that it was "objectively reasonable." A surveillance video of the incident has been subject to scrutiny from both sides of the argument.

W. Ken Katsaris, a certified Florida law enforcement officer, conducted one of three reports on the shooting. It was later released to the prosecutor’s office and made public in November. Katsaris determined Loehmann had “only one split second” to decide whether or not Rice was a threat—a sentiment reiterated by McGinty on Monday. Both Katsaris and McGinty noted that Rice was perceived as a threat because he moved toward his waistband, where the dispatcher said he kept the gun. McGinty also said Rice’s size indicated to the officer that he could be a threat.

In advance of McGinty’s announcement, an attorney for Rice's family said he didn’t expect the officers to be indicted.

"This is apparently how long it takes to engineer denying justice to a family when the video of the incident clearly illustrates probable cause to charge the officer," attorney Subodh Chandra told the Associated Press.

During his announcement on Monday, McGinty also called on toy gun manufacturers to redesign their products. The prosecutor said that had it been more apparent to the officers that the gun was a toy, the shooting “might never have happened.”

“Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome—but not surprised,” the family said in a statement. “It has been clear for many months that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand-jury process to orchestra a vote against indictment.”

The family noted the surveillance video shows Loehmann opening fire within seconds of arriving on the scene. The Rice family also took issue with the expert reports commissioned by the prosecutor. “It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire ‘experts’ to try to exonerate the targets of a grand-jury investigation,” the family said in a statement. “These are the sort of ‘experts’ we would expect the officer’s criminal defense attorney to hire—not the prosecutor.”

Additionally, the family believes McGinty handled the case differently than usual because police officers were involved. “This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects,” they said. “The way Prosecutor McGinty has mishandled the grand-jury process has compounded the grief of his family.”

The Rice family hopes the Department of Justice will conduct an investigation into the 12-year-old’s death.

Despite the lack of charges, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said Monday that the shooting allowed the police department to do some "soul searching" to ensure an incident like this would not happen again.

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