Former Florida governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told reporters that a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers in the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice shows that “the process worked.”
“If there is a grand jury that looks at all the facts and doesn’t indict maybe there’s reasons for that,” Bush said Wednesday night in Lexington, South Carolina. “I don’t believe that every grand jury is racist.”
Rice was fatally shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann in November of last year. Loehmann was responding to a 911 call claiming that Rice was pointing a gun at people in a Cleveland park. The caller added that the gun was “probably fake” — still, Loehmann shot Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene. Rice was later found to have been holding a toy gun.
The killing of Rice added to growing national outrage over the repeated killing of unarmed black men and women by police officers. Rice was killed just two days before a grand jury declined to indict the white police officer that fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
Initially, the presidential candidate confused the Rice shooting, which took place in Cleveland, with cases of police shootings in Chicago, telling reporters that “Chicago has a lot of work to do to rebuild trust. The level of violence is abhorrent.”
When alerted to the fact that Bush had the case confused, he responded with “My bad.”
“These tragedies that take place, there’s way too many of them, and it doesn’t change my view — because we have those kinds of well-publicized cases of violence — that we should be supportive of law enforcement,” Bush added.
Bush’s comments echoed those of Cleveland prosecutor Tim McGinty, who said when announcing the decision not to indict that “We don’t second-guess police officers.”
After the decision not to indict was made public, Rice’s family called for a federal investigation into the shooting, with Rice’s mother saying that she “[prays] and [hopes] that the federal government will investigate this case.”
The Department of Justice is already familiar with the details of the Rice case, having released a report in 2014 that chronicled high levels of police brutality throughout Cleveland. On Monday night, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio’s office released a statement saying that it would continue its independent review of the case.
Bush derided such independent investigations on Wednesday, telling reporters that communities should focus on internally rebuilding trust between civilians and police.
“There’s been lots of cases where [President Obama] goes out and calls for an investigation and it turns out there’s nothing there; not civil rights violations or any of the civil violations that he had jurisdiction over,” Bush said. “I think there should be more caution about using the federal government’s power and more focus on trying to rebuild trust from the bottom up.”
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