Feds deny charges against officials in Tamir Rice case

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it will not prosecute federal criminal charges against two Cleveland police officers in the 2014 murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. finally determine what happened.

To conclude the case, the department launched a lengthy investigation into a sensational shooting that helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement and became part of the national dialogue on the use of police against minorities, including children. The decision, which was revealed in a lengthy statement, does not condone the actions of the officers, but rather says that the cumulative evidence was not sufficient to support a federal criminal prosecution.

Tamir was playing with a shotgun outside a recreation center in Cleveland on November 22, 2014, when he was shot dead by Officer Timothy Loehmann, who is white, seconds after Loehmann and his partner, Officer Frank Garmback, arrived on the scene. . Officers were called to the recreation center after a man drank beer and waited for a bus, calling 911 to report that a ‘man’ was aiming a gun at people. The caller told a 911 dispatcher that it was probably a juvenile and that the gun was possibly ‘fake’, although the information was never passed on to officers.

To file charges of federal civil rights in cases like these, the Department of Justice must prove that the conduct of an officer intentionally violated the law, rather than the result of an error, negligence, or bad judgment. It has been an ongoing difficult task for federal prosecutors to meet in both Democratic and Republican governments, while the Department of Justice has dropped criminal charges against police officers in other high-profile cases in recent years, including the death of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Subodh Chandra, a lawyer for the boy’s family, said in a statement that the justice department’s “process is tainted” and the family is demanding that prosecutors provide additional information on recommendations made during the investigation.

“It goes beyond the understanding that the department could not recognize that an officer who claimed to have shouted orders when the patrol car window was closed and it was a winter day was lying,” Chandra said. “The Rice family has once again been tricked into a fair trial.”

In this case, the Justice Department said poor-quality surveillance videos recorded in the area where the shooting took place prevented prosecutors from finally being able to determine whether or not Rice grabbed his toy gun just before he was shot. The two officers under investigation told authorities shortly after the shooting that Rice grabbed his toy weapon before being shot and that he was given several instructions to show his hands.

But the video, which was reviewed by federal prosecutors, makes the sequence of events less clear. The granular time lapse video, without audio, shows no detail or perspective and the camera’s view is obstructed by a police guard, prosecutors said. In addition, they said, although the position of the boy’s arms indicated that they were in the vicinity of his waist, ‘but his hands are not visible in the video and it can not be determined from the video what he did . ‘

According to the Justice Department, seven experts used violence – three detained by the family, four by local authorities – reviewed the recording, but the poor quality of the video on which they relied and their “conflicting opinions” added.” The experts used by the family said the shooting was unreasonable, while the other four said it was reasonable.

The New York Times reported in October that the department had effectively stopped the investigation, but Tuesday’s announcement makes it official.

Inconsistent statements from witnesses also made it difficult to prosecute, and according to neither of the two people, according to the Department of Justice, did they see exactly what Rice was doing before the shooting.

In a statement at the scene to three other law enforcers, Loehmann said “repeatedly and consistently” that Tamir grabbed a gun before shooting him, prosecutors said.

Both Loehmann and Garmback also said in statements after the shooting incident that Loehmann “gave Tamir several orders to show his hands before firing” and both officers saw him grab the weapon. Prosecutors said Loehmann and Garmback were the only two witnesses in the “near vicinity of the shooting.”

A large jury of the state refused to charge Loehmann, although he was later fired after it was discovered that he had previously been considered “unfit for service”.

The Justice Department also investigated whether the officers obstructed the law in statements they made to other investigators shortly after the shooting. Prosecutors concluded that although the statements contained a different language, they were generally consistent. And since there was not enough evidence to prove that the statements were untrue, there was also not enough evidence to prove that the officers wanted to mislead investigators or obstruct an investigation into their actions.


Associated Press author Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this report.