What Everyone Should Know About The Police Killing Of Tamir Rice (2002-2014)
by JUDD LEGUM –
Prosecutor Tim McGinty announced that he would not seek criminal charges against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. The decision came after a grand jury, which has been hearing evidence for three months, declined to issue an indictment. Rice’s family and others sharply criticized McGinty’s conduct throughout the grand jury process, arguing that he was manipulating the proceedings to the benefit of the officers.
Here are seven facts that everyone should know about the case.
1. The officer fatally shot Tamir Rice less than 2 seconds after exiting his police car.
This is according to the official report from the prosecutor: “Officer Loehman discharged his firearm within two seconds of exiting the car. Officer Loehmann fired two shots, one of which hit Tamir in the abdomen and caused him to fall in the area between the patrol car and the gazebo.”
The officers both claimed to have warned Rice multiple times before firing. None of the witnesses heard any of these “verbal commands.”
2. A state judge ruled there was probable cause to charge the officer who killed Tamir Rice with murder.
As the investigation dragged on activists “invoked a provision of Ohio law that allows citizens to bypass prosecutors and seek a judge’s opinion on whether cause exists to bring criminal charges.” The judge, Ronald B. Adrine, “found that sufficient cause exists to charge Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty.” He also found that Loehmann’s partner, Frank Garmback, could be charged with “negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.”
“After viewing it several times, this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly,” Judge Adrine wrote in his opinion.
The prosecutor ignored the judge’s ruling.
3. The officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice was deemed “unfit for duty” at the last police department where he worked.
As a member of the Independence Police Department in Ohio, Loehmann was described in his personnel file as “an emotionally unstable recruit with a ‘lack of maturity’ and ‘inability to perform basic functions as instructed‘ during a weapons training exercise.”
A memo in Loehmann’s file said “his handgun performance was dismal,” citing a “dangerous loss of composure” during training. He was in the process of being fired. From a letter in his file:
The Cleveland Police Department then hired Loehmann without reviewing his personnel file from Independence.
4. Neither officer involved in the shooting administered first aid to Rice after he was shot.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported:
Rice lay on the snow-covered grass beside the cruiser’s passenger side for four minutes as Loehmann, 26, took cover behind the trunk and Patrolman Frank Garmback, the driver, positioned himself opposite his partner near Rice’s body.
Rice wasn’t given first aid until a medically trained FBI agent on duty in the area arrived at the scene…
Matt Meyer, one of the prosecutors, brushed off the officers inaction saying the department “did not train their officers to administer first aid to gun shot victims.” Meyer added that Loehmann was dealing with a sprained ankle he sustained during the incident and Garmback was occupied with Rice’s 14-year-old sister, who he tackled and handcuffed.
5. The officers refused to testify but the prosecutor submitted their written statements to the jury.
This unusual accommodation was highly beneficial to the officers, allowing them to present their version of the events without being subject to any questioning.
“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,” Subodh Chandra, an attorney for the Rice family, said.
6. The prosecutor commissioned reports from two “experts” with a history of sympathy toward police, then released them to the media.
McGinty commissioned reports of two out-of-state experts with a history of sympathy toward police, Kimberly Crawford, a retired FBI agent, and S. Lamar Sims, a Colorado-based prosecutor. Crawford and Sims concluded the officers conduct was “reasonable.” These reports were presented to the grand jury and released to the media.
McGinty did not explain why he picked Crawford and Sims to produce reports.
Two months prior to releasing his report, Sims appeared on television and appeared to defend the officers shooting of Rice. Crawford produced a memo of use of force by law enforcement that was rejected by the Justice Department as too generous to the police.
Two experts in police use of force commissioned by the Rice family found “the shooting was unjustified.” Those experts, Roger Clark and Jeffrey J. Noble, also found that the prosecutors reports “contradicted one another, made unfounded assumptions and ignored principles of police training.”
7. Explaining his decision not to press for an indictment, the prosecutor said “We don’t second-guess police officers.”
The job of the prosecutor, quite explicitly, is to reexamine the police officers conduct and to question the appropriateness of their actions. From the beginning, it appeared to be a task that was uncomfortable for prosecutor Timothy McGinty.