Authorities have released the sheriff’s department investigation into the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot by police in Cleveland last November.
“The death of a citizen resulting from the use of deadly force by the police is different from all other cases and deserves a high level of public scrutiny,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said in a statement. “These cases involve peace officers/public employees whose decision to take a fellow citizen’s life must be evaluated to determine, by law, whether the police officer’s action was reasonable under the circumstances and therefore justifiable.”
Rice was playing in a recreation center on Nov. 22 when the two officers responded to a 9/11 caller who said someone there may have had a gun. Surveillance video shows their police cruiser rushing to the scene, with Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehman jumping out of the car and opening fire on the boy within two seconds of arriving. Instead of a firearm, police recovered an airsoft-type pellet gun that Rice had been playing with.
According to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department investigation, Loehman fired two rounds, hitting Rice in the torso. Investigators said it was unclear whether the officer shouted verbal commands before opening fire. He did not speak with investigators for the report.
A witness described by detectives as Rice’s best friend said he lent the 12-year-old the air rifle in exchange for his cell phone. The friend said the toy gun malfunctioned — they disassembled the firearm to repair it, but were unable to reattach the “orange tip” safety.
The document dump comes just days after Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine found probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder in Rice’s shooting death. The judge also found probable cause to charge Loehman’s partner, Frank Garmback, with negligent homicide.
Adrine’s ruling is merely advisory – it is still up to a grand jury to ultimately decide whether to indict the officers.
Officer Garmack, who was appointed to the Cleveland Police Academy in 2008, had four registered complaints with the Office of Professional Standards, investigators reported. None of those complaints went anywhere. Loehmann had been with the academy for just under a year at the time of the shooting. He had previously worked for five other law enforcement agencies prior to joining Cleveland’s force.
Investigation details are typically kept under wraps during grand jury proceedings, only to be released once the panel of residents has reached a decision. McGinty, however, said he decided to make the documents public in order to aid in instituting reforms. “If we wait years for all litigation to be completed before the citizens are allowed to know what actually happened, we will have squandered our best opportunity to institute needed changes in use of force policy, police training and leadership,” he said in the statement.
The Cleveland Police Department has already reached a settlement on new reforms at the behest of the U.S. Justice Department, which found that the police force showed a pattern of excessive force and unconstitutional policing.