Officer Who Shot Tamir Rice: ‘He Gave Me No Choice’

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Tamir Rice.

On Sunday police exchanged gunfire with several suspects in the same Cleveland, Ohio, neighborhood where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police last November, sparking tension between officers investigating the incident and a crowd that gathered at the scene. Police were responding to a 911 call about a group of six men with guns around 10:30 a.m. when they spotted a 22-year-old man who matched the description of one of the suspects, according to Cleveland.com. He bolted when police approached, and during the chase he allegedly crouched down and pointed a gun at an officer. He responded by firing four shots, but he missed and the suspect continued running. Then several unidentified people standing behind the officers opened fire.

Police caught up with the suspect and found he had a puncture wound to his stomach, which was likely caused by the barb on a fence he jumped. “By the grace of God no one was struck, not even the suspect,” Chief Calvin Williams said. “That’s the way we like these things to end.”

While no one was injured by gunfire, rumors flew throughout the day, and some claimed police were hiding three bodies behind an apartment building. About 60 people gathered around the crime scene, demanding justice and shouting insults until police officers managed to calm the crowd.

The incident came one day after the release of the 224-page report on Rice’s shooting conducted by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, which was likely sparked by a judge’s ruling last week that a murder charge is warranted in the boy’s death. The document contained witness accounts and other new details on the shooting, but one central question remained unanswered.

Officer Tim Loehmann fired two shots at Rice, who was playing with a pellet gun, within two seconds as the police cruiser came to a halt. Police have claimed that Loehmann warned the boy to put his hands up three times, but no witnesses recalled hearing a warning before shots were fired. According to the New York Times, one witness said she heard two “bangs,” then someone yelled, “Freeze! Show me your hands,” and there was another bang. The report says Loehmann only fired two shots, and it’s “unclear whether Officer [Tim] Loehmann shouted verbal commands” before opening fire. Officer William Cunningham said Officer Loehmann was distraught when he arrived on the scene and told him, “He gave me no choice. He reached for the gun, and there was nothing I could do.”

Rice received no medical assistance until an FBI agent, who happened to be a certified paramedic, arrived on the scene. He said Tamir had “an incredibly disturbing looking injury,” and was initially unresponsive. When the agent managed to rouse the boy, he said his name and that he had been shot, and something unintelligible about a gun. Rice died at the hospital the next day.

Officer Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, had no medical equipment in their car and no training in how to help a shooting victim. “The officer [Loehmann] seemed pretty concerned,” the unidentified FBI agent said. “Obviously very concerned and uh, I don’t want to use the word, like — almost like shell shock; like they didn’t know what to do.”

Many have complained that it’s taken more than six months to investigate the shooting, and say the officers would have been arrested already if they weren’t on the force. Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty says he intends to let a grand jury decide whether the officers should face charges for the boy’s death.