CLEVELAND, Dec. 28 (UPI) — A Cleveland grand jury investigating the police-involved shooting death of Tamir Rice last year has decided not to pursue state criminal charges against the officer who killed Rice, the county prosecutor said Monday.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced at a press conference that the grand jury has elected not to bring charges in the death of 12-year-old Rice. In November 2014, Rice was shot and killed by police in a Cleveland park while holding a pellet pistol that a concerned citizen reported to 911.
The responding officers, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, had faced charges in the boy’s death. Loehmann was the officer who shot Rice, believing the pistol was a real firearm. The caller told the 911 dispatcher that the person was likely a juvenile and the gun was “probably fake,” but that information was not passed on to the responding officers.
McGinty said Monday that the grand jury declined to bring charges because there wasn’t enough evidence to show the officers acted outside constitutional law with their actions at the time of the boy’s death. He added that it “became clear” as the investigation progressed that the officers’ actions were not criminal.
“We told Rice’s mother that the state must be able to show that officers acted outside the constitutional boundaries set forth by these United States,” he said. “It was a ‘perfect storm of human error’ but did not equal criminal activity by the officers involved.”
A statement from attorney Jonathan S. Abady, who represents the Rice family, said Tamir’s relatives were “saddened and disappointed by this outcome — but not surprised.”
“It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment,” the statement said. “Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified.”
In June, a Cleveland judge found there was probable cause for charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty after a non-binding legal review of the case.
An FBI review found that Loehmann acted “reasonably,” noting that he had a split-second to make a life-or-death decision when faced with an individual with a handgun.
McGinty said Loehmann, a rookie police officer at the time of the shooting, arrived at the scene expecting to confront a possible active shooter — and that two Cleveland police officers had previously been shot to death near that same area.
“Both Tamir and the rookie officer were no doubt frightened,” the prosecutor said. “Tamir either intended to hand [the pellet gun] over to the officers or show him it wasn’t a real gun. But there was no way the officers would know that.”
“Loehmann had reason to fear for his life,” he added. “It would be irresponsible or unreasonable if the officer was required to wait and see if the gun was real.”
McGinty added that although the shooting was an “absolute tragedy,” it was not a crime. He also noted that the legal system isn’t necessarily “done with this case.”