Grand jury will not file charges against police in shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice

Published December 28, 2015

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A white police officer who fatally shot a black 12-year-old carrying a pellet gun in November 2014 will not be indicted, an Ohio prosecutor announced Monday.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said a grand jury declined to charge a Cleveland police officer or his partner in the death of Tamir Rice. The grand jury had been meeting since mid-October.

Surveillance video of the shooting showed patrolman Timothy Loehmann, a rookie at the time, shooting Rice as the cruiser driven by patrolman Frank Garmback skidded to a stop on Nov. 22, 2014. Rice died the next day during surgery.

McGinty called the episode "a perfect storm of human error" but said no crime was committed.

Rice was carrying a plastic airsoft gun when he was shot and McGinty said it was "indisputable" that Rice drew his weapon as the officer who shot him approached.

The grand jury decision comes more than a year after Rice's death, and his family has repeatedly questioned why the case has dragged on.

Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland attorney who represents the Rice family in a federal civil rights lawsuit over the shooting, said he had braced himself for the news that the officers, both white, wouldn't be indicted.

"This is apparently how long it takes to engineer denying justice to a family when the video of the incident clearly illustrates probable cause to charge the officer," Chandra said.

Unlike criminal trials, in which prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction, the burden of proof for an indictment is much lower. The grand jury would have had to decide only that a crime might have been committed to indict the officers.

Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret, but McGinty has released expert reports and investigative documents to the media and public while citing his desire for transparency in how the case is being handled.

On the day Rice was shot, a man waiting for a bus outside a recreation center called 911 to report that a man was waving a gun and pointing it at people. Rice lived across the street from the recreation center and went there to play nearly every day.

The man told the 911 operator that the person holding the gun was likely a juvenile and that the gun probably wasn't real. The operator never passed that information to the dispatcher who gave Loehmann and Garmback the high-priority call.

When the cruiser arrived, the vehicle skidded on wet grass and stopped within feet of the boy. Authorities say Loehmann shot Rice less than 2 seconds after opening the cruiser door.

The officers said they repeatedly yelled at Tamir to put his hands up, although investigators found no evidence of that.

Garmback said the windows of the cruiser were rolled up.

In the video, Rice walked toward the cruiser as it moved toward him. It's unclear -- even in an enhanced version of the video -- whether Rice was reaching for the gun or had his hand on it when Loehmann shot him.

The boy lay unattended for about 4 minutes until an FBI agent who was a trained paramedic arrived and began administering first aid.

Rice was carrying a plastic airsoft gun that shot nonlethal plastic projectiles and was a replica of an actual firearm. He had borrowed it that morning from a friend who warned him to be careful because the gun looked real.

Experts hired by McGinty concluded the shooting was justified.

Experts hired by the Rice family concluded otherwise. Both sets testified before the grand jury.