CLEVELAND, Ohio – An Ohio grand jury has decided not to return an indictment in the 2014 police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, prosecutor Tim McGinty said Monday.
Rice was holding a pellet gun when he was shot. It was “reasonable” to believe that the officer who killed the boy was facing a threat, McGinty said.
The officer was in training outside a Cleveland recreation center where Tamir had been playing on November 22, 2014. The shooting sparked controversy given Tamir’s age and the fact that he had a gun that resembled a handgun.
McGinty called Rice’s killing an “absolute tragedy.”
“But it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime,” he said. He said he has “heard the chants” that cry for justice for the boy.
“We too want justice for Tamir,” he said. But it would not be justice to bring charges against the officers involved in the shooting if those charges “could not be sustained.” That, however, “doesn’t mean the legal system is done,” he said. The civil courts may provide some accountability to the boy’s family “that they deserve,” McGinty said.
The shooting of a child should “never happen again,” he said, and he urged that toy gun manufacturers stop making their products look so much like real guns.
A witness at the recreation center called 911, reporting there was “a guy with a pistol,” adding that the weapon was “probably” fake.
Information that the gun the caller saw was probably not real and that the person holding it appeared to be a juvenile was not conveyed to Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, according to recordings that law enforcement released.
Video of the incident shows a patrol car pull up on the snowy grass near a gazebo where Tamir is standing. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, Loehmann shoots the boy.
Several witnesses the prosecutors said were interviewed described seeing the boy throughout the day, removing the toy gun that a friend had given to him from his waistband and pointing it at people.
On Monday, officials showed a photo of the toy gun next to a real Colt model to illustrate how similar they appeared, especially when the toy gun’s orange safety tip is removed.
Kimberly Crawford, a 20-year veteran of the FBI and a former instructor at the agency’s academy, has previously said that when the officers approached Tamir they were responding to a report of a male suspect with a gun he kept pulling from his pants.
“The after-acquired information — that the individual was 12 years old, and the weapon in question was an ‘airsoft gun’– is not relevant to a constitutional review of Officer Loehmann’s actions,” she writes in one of the other reports posted Saturday.
She says Loehmann was required to make a threat assessment and a split-second decision on whether to shoot.
“His response was a reasonable one,” Crawford has written.
McGinty had previously said that his office wasn’t using the reports to reach a conclusion and the grand jury will get to consider all the evidence once the investigation into shooting is done.
In June, McGinty released the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office report. Also that month — in a non-binding review of the case — a Cleveland judge found probable cause for the charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against Loehmann.