A Cleveland cop was justified in fatally shooting Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy carrying a toy gun, according to a pair of reports released on Saturday.
The reports, which were commissioned by the prosecutor’s office investigating Rice’s death, were prepared by two experts from outside the state: Kimberly Crawford, a retired FBI agent, and S. Lamar Sims, a Colorado-based prosecutor. The reports will be turned over to a grand jury, which will ultimately decide whether to indict the cops involved in Rice’s death.
An attorney for Rice’s family called the reports a “charade” and blasted the prosecutor’s office for “releasing supposed “expert reports” in an effort to absolve the officers involved in Tamir’s death of responsibility.”
In a statement provided on Facebook, Subodh Chandra, Rice’s family attorney, wrote: “These hired guns—all pro-police—dodge the simple fact that the officers rushed Tamir and shot him immediately without assessing the situation in the least. Reasonable jurors could find that conduct unreasonable. But they will never get the chance because the prosecutor is working diligently to ensure that there is no indictment and no accountability.”
Nevertheless, both of the reports released on Saturday concluded that Rice presented a threat to police officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire on the 12-year-old boy just seconds after pulling up next to him outside a recreation center in November 2014.
“There can be no doubt that Rice’s death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking,” wrote S. Lamar Sims, the Colorado prosecutor. “However, for all the reasons discussed herein, I conclude that Officer Loehmann’s belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat.”
Rice was gunned down while he was playing with a toy gun, which had its orange safety tip removed, in a park near his house. A man who saw Rice playing in the park called 911 and reported that a man appeared to be pointing and waving around a gun. Although the caller remarked that the gun may have been fake and that the person holding it was “probably a juvenile,” his observations were not passed along to the two the police officers who were later dispatched to the scene.
Crawford, the retired FBI agent, concluded Loehmann’s deadly use of force did not violate Rice’s constitutional rights. “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,” she wrote, noting that Loehmann had to make a “split-second” decision after encountering Rice.
“When he exited the police car, the officer was likely focused on Rice’s hands as they moved to his waist and lifted his jacket, and not on Rice’s age. 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.”
Grand jury proceedings are not public, and the decision by the prosecutor’s office to release the reports before the grand jury review is unusual.
In a statement released to the New York Times, Rice’s family attorney Jonathan S. Abady expressed concern over the influence of prosecutors and the possibility that “there will be no criminal prosecution.”
“Prosecutors exercise substantial influence over the grand jury process and whether an indictment will issue or not,” Abady said. “The video footage and other evidence readily available from the outset made clear that this was a completely unreasonable use of deadly force against Tamir.”
The two outside reports come despite a local Cleveland municipal Judge’s findings after reviewing all of the available evidence that there is probable cause for charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, and negligent homicide duty against Loehmann.
In December, records released to ThinkProgress revealed that Loehmann, a rookie cop, admitted on his job application for the Cleveland Police Department that his primary source of income prior to his hiring was “under-the-table jobs.”
Moreover, a troubling letter in Loehmann’s file from the Independence, Ohio Police Department where the officer previously worked, concluded that Loehmann did not possess the maturity necessary to perform well as an officer and recommended that he be “released from the employment of the City of Independence. I do not believe Ptl. Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment…I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”