Investigators: Officer’s Shooting of Tamir Rice Was Justified

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Two outside investigators hired by prosecutors to assess last November’s fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a black 12-year-old, by white Cleveland police officer Tim Loehmann, have concluded that the shooting was justified, according to reports made public Saturday night. The Associated Press notes that the investigators, a retired FBI agent and a Denver prosecutor, both independently found that officer Loehmann, a rookie patrolman, exercised reasonable force considering the speed of the confrontation, and how it was reasonable to presume Rice’s plastic pellet gun was real. Wrote Lamar Sims, the Denver District Attorney who authored one of the reports, “The officers did not create the violent situation,” Sims wrote. “They were responding to a situation fraught with the potential for violence to citizens.”

The reports were requested by Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office as they prepare to present the case to a grand jury to see if Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, will face charges. Said Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, “We are not reaching any conclusions from these reports. The gathering of evidence continues, and the grand jury will evaluate it all.” The two investigators did not speak with Loehmann or Garmback during their investigation, but did view the video of the shooting. Both investigators rejected the logic that the officers should have known more than they did at the time, for instance that the original 911 caller had suggested the gun might be fake and that Rice was a kid, but that information was never communicated to the officers. The retired FBI agent, Kimberly A. Crawford, also indicated that Rice’s age should not have played a factor anyway, writing that “even if Officer Loehmann was aware of Rice’s age, it would not have made his use of force unreasonable. A 12-year-old with a gun, unquestionably old enough to pull a trigger, poses a threat equal to that of a full-grown adult in a similar situation.” 

Lawyers representing Rice’s family are pushing back on the reports, which they did not receive in advance. They are accusing prosecutors of a whitewash campaign meant to excuse their ultimate avoidance of accountability for the shooting. “Who will speak for Tamir before the grand jury?” Rice family lawyer Subodh Chandra responded, “Not the prosecutor, apparently.” Another Rice family lawyer, Jonathan S. Abady, added that “we now have grave concerns that there will be no criminal prosecution.”