The two Cleveland police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old carrying an airsoft pellet gun, made their first public statements on the matter on Tuesday, saying they saw the boy pulling the gun out of his waistband and thought he was an adult. In typewritten statements released by Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, the officers say that on November 22, 2014, they responded to a call about a black male “waving a gun and pointing at people” outside Cudell Recreation Center. Officer Timothy Loehmann said that as he and his partner, Frank Garmback, approached in their cruiser, they saw a man matching the suspect’s description stick an object in his waistband, and they feared he would run into the rec center. This is how he describes the moments leading to the shooting:
As the car is slid, I started to open the door and yelled continuously “show me your hands” as loud as I could. Officer Garmback was also yelling “show me your hands.”
I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time. I was fixed on his waistband and hand area. I was trained to keep my eyes on his hands because “hands may kill.” The male appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds.
The suspect lifted his shirt reached down into his waistband. We continued to yell “show me your hands.” I was focused on the suspect. Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn’t fire. I still was yelling the command “show me your hands.” […]
I observed the suspect pulling the gun out of his waistband with his elbow coming up. Officer Garmback and I were still yelling “show me your hands.” With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out. I saw the weapon in his hands coming-out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active. I fired two shots …
Several experts commissioned by Prosecutor McGinty have concluded that while tragic, the officers actions were “objectively reasonable.” However, Rice family attorneys noted that surveillance footage shows Officer Loehmann’s careful considerations would have had to take place in a matter of seconds. Plus, while Officer Garmback confirmed parts of his partner’s account — he says they both told Rice to show his hands and thought the 5-foot, 7-inch, 195-pound boy was an adult — he said he believes “the cruiser windows were up at the time of these events, but I am not sure.”
“The officers’ statements are inconsistent with one another and the objective video footage contradicts the officers’ claims. Loehmann, for example insists that he observed things and took action that would have been physically impossible for any human being to do in the under 2 seconds it took him to shoot a 12-year-old child,” said Rice family attorneys. “While Loehmann claims to have issued at least three commands in under two seconds, Garmback admits the windows to the police vehicle were up, demonstrating that his partner’s claims are false.”
A grand jury is currently hearing evidence on whether Loehmann and Garmback should be charged, and the Rice family also criticized McGinty for allowing the officers to give written statements rather than testifying. “Submitting self-serving, unsworn written statements — rather than appearing live before the grand jury so that the officers’ versions of events are subject to vigorous cross examination — shows that these officers know their story will not withstand real scrutiny,” said Rice family attorney Subodh Chandra.