A grand jury declined to indict a white rookie police officer in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black youngster who was shot to death while carrying what turned out to be a pellet gun, a prosecutor said Monday.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said it was "indisputable" that the boy was drawing the weapon from his waistband when he was gunned down — either to hand it over to police or to show them that it wasn't a real firearm. But McGinty said there was no way for the officers on the scene to know that.
He called it "a perfect storm of human error" but said no crime was committed.
Tamir was carrying a borrowed airsoft gun that looked like a real gun but shot nonlethal plastic pellets. It was missing its telltale orange tip.
The video shows patrolman Loehmann, a rookie at the time, shooting Tamir in an instant as the cruiser driven by Garmback skids to a stop on Nov. 22, 2014. The video of the shooting captured by a surveillance camera provoked outrage nationally, and together with other killings of black people by police in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, it helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to newsnet5.com, the Tamir Rice family released the following statement following the grand jury announcement:
Today, more than a year after Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a grand jury voted not to indict the shooter. Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome–but not surprised.
It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand-jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment. Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified. It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire “experts” to try to exonerate the targets of a grand-?jury investigation. These are the sort of “experts” we would expect the officer’s criminal-defense attorney to hire—not the prosecutor.
Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination. Even though it is black-letter law that taking the stand waives the Fifth Amendment right to be silent, the prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse. This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects.
The way Prosecutor McGinty has mishandled the grand-jury process has compounded the grief of this family.
The Rice family is grateful for all the community support they have received and urges people who want to express their disappointment with how Prosecutor McGinty has handled this process to do so peacefully and democratically. We renew our request that the Department of Justice step in to conduct a real investigation into this tragic shooting of a 12-year-old child.
The grand jury had been hearing evidence and testimony since mid-October.
In detailing the decision not to bring charges, McGinty said police radio personnel contributed to the tragedy by failing to pass along the "all-important fact" that the 911 caller said the gunman was probably a juvenile and the gun probably wasn't real.
Assistant prosecutor Matthew Meyer said it was "extremely difficult" to tell the difference between the pellet gun and the firearm its modeled after. And he said Tamir was big for his age — 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds — and appeared much older than 12.
McGinty also noted that the neighborhood has a history of violence and that a short distance away are memorials to two Cleveland police officers fatally shot in the line of duty. McGinty said the city has taken steps to prevent this kind of shooting from happening again.
The Cleveland police department plans to put dashboard cameras in every patrol car. Officers who work the streets have been equipped with bodycams since September. The city also reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice this year to institute numerous reforms, including an overhaul of the police department's use-of-force policies. The settlement was prompted in part by a November 2012 high-speed car chase that ended with the killing of a couple in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire.
In a statement, Tamir's family said it was "saddened and disappointed by this outcome — but not surprised." It accused the prosecutor of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."
Among other things, the family charged that McGinty improperly hired use-of-force experts to tell the grand jury that Loehmann's actions were reasonable.
The family renewed its request for the Department of Justice to step in and conduct "a real investigation." Federal prosecutors in Cleveland noted Monday that a civil rights investigation into the shooting is already underway.
Also, Mayor Frank Jackson said the city and the police department will conduct an internal review that could result in disciplinary action against the two officers, who were removed from street duty and have been on restricted duty since the shooting.
Tamir's family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the two officers and the city.
McGinty said it was a "tough conversation" with Tamir's mother when she was told there would be no charges.
"She was broken up, and it was very hard," the prosecutor said.
Loehmann opened fire from a distance estimated at 4 1/2 to 7 feet, getting off two shots, one of which missed.
"With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out," Loehmann said in a statement he read to the grand jury. "I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband, and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active."
After the boy's killing, it was learned that Loehmann had washed out from the police force in suburban Independence. Loehmann had a "dismal" handgun performance, broke down in tears at the gun range and was emotionally immature, according to documents. He quit that department before he could be fired.
Steve Loomis, the head of Cleveland's largest police union, said the organization was pleased with the grand jury's finding but added the decision "is no cause for celebration, and there will be none."
McGinty urged those who disagree with the grand jury decision to react peacefully and said: "It is time for the community and all of us to start to heal."
Outside the recreation center, protesters chanted, "No justice, no peace!" Art Blakey, of Cleveland, held a sign that read, "Indict, Convict, Send Killer Cops to Jail!" He said he wasn't surprised by the grand jury decision.
"There never has been any justice in these police murders," he said. "We're supposed to swallow these things whole as if this is business as usual."