Police shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice seconds after arriving at a Cleveland park last Saturday where the boy was waving around a toy “airsoft” gun, surveillance video released Wednesday showed.
The grainy footage, made public by authorities after the Rice family requested the tapes be released, shows a 911 caller sitting at a picnic table under a gazebo while a boy, later identified as Rice, walks back and forth along a sidewalk near the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland. At times, Rice points his "airsoft" gun and also speaks on his cell phone. The caller leaves the area, and Rice appears to sit at a picnic table at the gazebo. By the time a police car pulls up in front of the gazebo, Rice is standing near the edge of the gazebo. Both officers exit the vehicle and draw their firearms.
The gunshots struck Rice in his torso. He died early Sunday from his wounds.
At a press conference Wednesday, authorities presented the 911 call, conversations between police dispatch and the two responding officers, and the surveillance video. They showed two versions of the tape, one in real time and another in slow motion with annotations from Police Deputy Chief Edward Tomba.
The officers drove onto the grass with their windows down, and gave three commands to "show your hands," Tomba said. He wouldn't elaborate on additional dialogue between the officers and the boy because of an ongoing investigation into the incident.
Both officers were placed on administrative leave, which follows standard practice within the division. Tomba on Wednesday identified the driver of the vehicle as Frank Garmback, 46, who joined the force in February 2008, and his passenger, Timothy Loehmann, 26, who was hired eight months ago in March. Police confirmed they had interviewed the officers by Wednesday morning, but wouldn't comment on their conversations.
The parents, Samaria Rice and Leonard Warner, asked officials this week to make public the surveillance footage of the incident. Authorities originally declined to release the footage, citing the recorded evidence was part of their investigation and their wish to be sensitive to the family, community, and officers. But at a community meeting on Tuesday night, law enforcement officials said they would release the footage and audio files.
"We feel the actions of the patrol officer who took our son’s life must be made public," the boy’s parents said Tuesday in a written statement. The family's attorneys viewed the video earlier this week, but the family initially declined to watch. But after hearing feedback from their representatives and reviewing the footage, the family on Tuesday asked officials to release the complete video to the public.
"It is our belief that this situation could have been avoided and that Tamir should still be here with us," the family said in a written statement on Wednesday. "The video shows one thing distinctly: the police officers reacted quickly." They called for a thorough investigation from the prosecutor's office and for calm from the community.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said authorities in the past typically haven't released audio files and video recordings used as evidence in investigations. But, he added, the force accepted the wishes of Rice's parents.
“The release of this video, in no means was an effort to try to explain the actions of the division of police or of the young man. We are honoring the wishes of the family in releasing this, and also in the spirit of being open and fair with our community," Tomba said at the news conference.
The 911 call, a transcript of which was released Monday, detailed the observations of a man who was sitting outside of the recreation center and described seeing "a guy in here with a pistol." He continued, saying the person kept pulling the gun in and out of his pants. “It’s probably fake. But you know what? It’s scaring the shit out of people,” the caller said.
All evidence, including the video, will be handed over to a grand jury once an internal investigation is complete, Williams said Monday.
In their statement, Rice's parents said they have faith in the U.S. justice system, and urged their community to remain calm, amid continued outrage across the country over the outcome of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri. A St. Louis County grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Brown.
On Tuesday night, hundreds of people marched down a freeway exit ramp in Cleveland to block rush-hour traffic in protest against both the decision in Ferguson and the fatal shooting of Rice.