CLEVELAND –– A grand jury cleared two Cleveland police officers in the November, 2014 fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was brandishing a toy gun in a park, due to a lack of evidence indicating criminal activity, a prosecutor said today.
The grand jury for weeks had been hearing testimony on the shooting of Rice, which took place within seconds after police arrived at a park next to a Cleveland recreation centre in response to reports of a suspect with a gun. Rice died the next day.
Rice’s shooting is one of several cases that have raised questions about police use of deadly force in the United States, particularly against minorities. The officers are white and Rice was black.
Rice was playing with a replica handgun outside a recreation centre when Officer Timothy Loehmann shot him twice within seconds of reaching the park in a squad car driven by his partner Frank Garmback.
“Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunication by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police,” Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said in a statement made to the media.
Before making the announcement, prosecutors told Rice’s family of the grand jury’s decision.
McGinty said enhanced video evidence showed that Rice was reaching for the replica gun, which shoots plastic pellets, when a police squad car responding to a 911 call of a man waving a gun rolled up next to him. An officer then stepped out and shot him.
The Airsoft replica is usually sold with an orange tip on it, which was not on the version Rice had. It is a replica of a Colt 1911 .45-calibre handgun. Prosecutors showed a standard handgun side-by-side with a replica at the news conference.
McGinty also called on makers of replica guns to do more to make them easier to distinguish from actual firearms.
In a statement read to the grand jury and released by prosecutors, Loehmann said he yelled for Rice to show his hands and saw him pull a gun from his waistband before the officer fired. Loehmann and Garmback also said in their statements they were concerned the armed suspect might enter the recreation centre.