Tamir Rice shooting justified, say expert reports, as grand jury process continues
Prosecutor inisists ‘we are not reaching any conclusions’ and evidence-gathering goes on after Kimberly A Crawford and Lamar Sims say officer acted reasonably
Two outside experts have said a policeman was justified in shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had a pellet gun, because he legitimately believed the boy posed a threat.
Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir in November 2014 within seconds of seeing the youngster sitting in a gazebo at a Cleveland city park. Like the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, the killing of Tamir has become part of a national outcry about minorities, especially black boys and men, dying during encounters with police.
The Cuyahoga county prosecutor, Timothy McGinty, released the reports on Saturday night. Although they will be included in evidence submitted to a grand jury, the prosecutor will not make any recommendations.
McGinty said his office “is not reaching any conclusions” from the reports. “The gathering of evidence continues and the grand jury will evaluate it all.”
Both experts reviewed evidence provided by the prosecutor’s office. Lamar Sims, chief deputy district attorney in Denver, called Rice’s death “tragic and heartbreaking” but concluded that Loehmann’s belief that Rice posed a threat, and his deadly response, were “objectively reasonable”.
Sims noted the officers had been dispatched to investigate a man with a gun at the park. That alone raised questions of safety in the officers’ minds, and protocol in such cases allowed officers to place a hand on a holstered weapon or take it out of the holster altogether, Sims said.
Police say the officers responded to a call about a man with a gun, but were not told the caller said the gun could be a fake and the male involved was an adolescent.
Another officer who recovered the pellet gun after Tamir was shot told investigators he first thought the gun was a semi-automatic pistol and was surprised when he realised it wasn’t real, Sims noted.
The pellet gun Tamir was holding used non-lethal plastic projectiles but its orange markings had been removed.
Retired FBI special agent Kimberly Crawford said the US constitution covered Loehmann’s use of force.
“The relevant inquiry is whether a reasonable officer … could have concluded that deadly force is necessary,” she wrote. “It is my conclusion that Officer Loehmann’s use of deadly force falls within the realm of reasonableness under the dictates of the fourth amendment.”
Several elements of the case have made the case controversial, especially whether Loehmann adequately warned Rice before shooting him. But Crawford said the question carried no weight when it came to determining the constitutionality of the officer’s action.
The fourth amendment permits deadly force as a protection against injury or death. “If an officer’s reasonable perception is that his or another’s life is in imminent danger, delaying the use of force for the purpose of issuing a warning creates an unreasonable risk,” Crawford wrote.
She also said Tamar’s age was “irrelevant” to determining the reasonableness of Loehmann’s action.“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,” Crawford wrote.
Crawford noted she was not issuing an opinion as to whether Loehmann violated Ohio law or department policy.
Rice’s family and local activists have criticised the Cuyahoga county prosecutor McGinty for not indicting Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, nor taking the cases to a grand jury, even though Rice was killed almost a year ago.
Subodh Chandra, a lawyer for Rice’s family, issued a statement saying the reports were a “whitewash”.
“These supposed ‘experts’ – all pro-police – dodge the simple fact that the officers rushed Tamir and shot him immediately without assessing the situation,” Chandra said.
Chandra questioned the timing of the release. “It’s rather sad the prosecutor’s office gave the material to the media rather than the victim’s family.”
McGinty said the reports, which included a technical reconstruction by the Ohio highway patrol, were released in the interests of being “as public and transparent as possible”. Cleveland police union president Steve Loomis could not be reached for comment. But the prosecutor has criticised the officers for refusing to co-operate with investigators and “needlessly delaying the process of justice”.
But strange this piece has been omitted. Before Cleveland police department officer Timothy Loehmann tragically shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, he accumulated a record of emotional instability, disregard for training, and ineptitude for the job so severe that he should have never been hired. As you will see below, his previous supervisors in Independence, Ohio, said as much. As many as seven police departments and programs turned him down in the aftermath of his termination from Independence, but Cleveland, which claims they never checked his records, hired him. They should be held accountable for this mistake of fatal proportions.
It's nearly impossible to find a documented case of someone less qualified to have a badge and a gun than officer Timothy Loehmann. It's frightening, when reviewing the evidence, to think that he was ever hired and makes one wonder how many other times police departments have completely ignored human resource files when making hires for those expected to protect and serve us.
In 2012, Timothy Loehmann was hired by the Independence, Ohio police department. Even then, it was a mistake to hire him, but the department quickly and firmly tried to make it right. Below the fold is Timothy Loehmann's entire personnel file from the Independence police department for you to review for yourself. Important highlights have been noted below it, including their statements on his poor performance in gun training, his continued emotional instability, his willingness to lie, and their final recommendation that he be terminated and never employed as an officer again.
I call BULLSH*T on this. Tamir needs justice and NOW!