By Oliver Laughland and Jon Swaine, The Guardian
The white police officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice, an African American 12-year-old, will not face criminal charges, it was announced on Monday – more than a year after the shooting in Cleveland.
A grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire on Rice less than two seconds after arriving at a park where the 12-year-old was playing with a toy gun on 22 November 2014.
Loehmann’s partner, Frank Garmback, will also face no charges, Cuyahoga county prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced at a press conference.
Subodh Chandra, an attorney for Tamir’s mother Samaria, said they had been given no information about the announcement beforehand and had learned it was taking place through a public statement made by the county prosecutor’s office about an hour earlier. “I expect we’ll be making a statement,” he said.
McGinty said he had spoken to Tamir’s mother Samaria shortly before the decision was made public. “It was a tough conversation,” McGinty said, adding “she was broken up.”
McGinty said that despite the “perfect storm of human error … the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.”
In announcing the grand jury’s decision, McGinty said it was also his recommendation that no charges be brought.
He argued the crucial piece of evidence was an enhanced image of Tamir at the time the officers approached, which he said made it “indisputable that Tamir was drawing his gun from his waist.”
McGinty’s handling of the grand jury process has been heavily criticized by the Rice family and local activists, after the prosecutor proceeded to drip feed the public evidence seen by the grand jury, which included reports from experts concluding that the shooting was justified.
Loehmann nor Garmback appeared before the grand jury, and instead provided unsworn statements that were read to jurors earlier in the month. Loehmann claimed he shot because Tamir pulled the pellet gun from his waistband, “had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our command to show us his hands.”
Tamir’s family argued it would have been impossible for the officers to have issued commands given the fraction of time that elapsed before shots were fired.
The officers were responding to a report that there was a juvenile in the area with a weapon that was “probably fake.” The full details of the call were not passed on to the officers, according to other accounts released by McGinty.
Samaria Rice testified to the grand jury about the loss of her son. In a statement, her attorney said that she had asked the jurors whether the officers’ actions “could possibly be ‘reasonable’ or ‘justifiable’.” It said: “She believes that the answer is plainly no.”
Tamir’s death in 2014 followed the high-profile police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, which sparked a new civil rights movement across the United States.