An Ohio Grand Jury has declined to indict two police officers in the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by a Cleveland police officer last year, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said today.
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McGinty said he also recommended that no charges be filed.
After the Grand Jury "heard all the evidence and the applicable law, they were told our recommendation," the prosecutor's office said. "But they made the final decision."
Tamir was holding a toy gun when he was shot by officer Timothy Loehmann at a Cleveland playground in November 2014. The grand jury was hearing evidence to determine if any charges would be brought against Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback.
McGinty said today that the law gives the benefit of the doubt to officers who must make "split second" decisions when they believe their lives are in danger.
Loehmann "had reason to fear for his life," McGinty said, citing video he said was "indisputable" when it showed Tamir reaching for his gun as the police car approached and Loehmann exited.
McGinty said it would be unreasonable for the law to require the officers to wait to determine if the gun Tamir had was real. "It became clear" that the officers' actions were not criminal, McGinty told reporters.
McGinty called Tamir's death a "tragedy" but not a crime, adding that charges against the officers wouldn't bring justice for Tamir. He called the shooting a "perfect storm of human error, mistakes and communications by all involved that day," but added that "the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police."
While Tamir's family was "disappointed" by the decision, they were "not surprised," attorneys for the Rice family said in a statement following the Grand Jury announcement.
"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 attorneys said.
The family's attorneys claim that McGinty hired "so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified."
"Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination," the attorneys said in the statement. "The prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse."
Matthew Meyer, chief prosecutor of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s public corruption unit, said the officer who shot Tamir was "tragically mistaken" and didn't know until it was too late that Tamir posed no threat to the officers or the community.
Meyer said the shooting was the result of a "tragic confluence of events": Tamir appeared much older and larger than 12 years old; officers believed it was a real gun; the rec center security monitors were kept in a locked room and were not monitored by the on-duty guard.
Meyer noted that it was debatable whether Loehmann would have had time to issue warnings to Tamir before shooting, but noted that the law requires that warnings be issued prior to use of deadly force only when feasible.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the city will proceed with an administrative review of the incident now that the criminal process has ended. Jackson reassured the public there "will be due process."
The committee conducting the review is made up of members of the police department and the community. There is no time limit for how long the review can take, according to Calvin Williams, chief of police in Cleveland.
The family's attorneys said they are renewing their request for the Department of Justice "step in to conduct a real investigation."
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio said it will continue its independent review of the case to "determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws."