by m. dennis paul
Over 400 days after young Tamir Rice was murdered by a Cleveland, Ohio Police Officer (he was shot Nov. 22, 2014 and died the following day), a “Grand Jury” released its decision that nothing inappropriate nor illegal had occurred in the circumstances surrounding his untimely death. No criminal charges were warranted against the officer who took less than 2 seconds to determine Tamir was a threat to the community and the officer’s life. Less than 2 seconds upon exiting his cruiser, this officer made the decision to take the life of a young boy playing in a park.. playing with a toy gun.
No one had been fired upon by Tamir. The imaginary bullets from his toy never creased flesh nor drew any blood from passers-by and no imaginary bullets were fired upon the arriving police cruiser and none at the officers inside. Upon arrival of the cruiser, Tamir took no posture suggesting he was prepared for a shoot-out with police. He made no attempt to take cover. Tamir continued to play and had placed his toy in his waistband.
No attempt was made by the officer to position himself safely if, as he claimed, Tamir genuinely posed a threat and no attempt was made to verbally assess the child’s state of mind. The officer made no attempt to safely disarm Tamir. He claimed he had done so. Time it for yourself. Could you exit a car, position yourself in proximity to the child (4.5-7 feet), demand he release his weapon to the ground and shoot him dead in less than 2 seconds? Such a magical feat was not demonstrated for the “Grand Jury”. No one requested it… not even the prosecutor. The officer claims he shouted to Tamir from inside the cruiser. Witnesses claim no demands from the officer were heard.
An FBI agent who was minutes away heard the call of an officer shooting and went to the location. The 2 officers involved had given no medical assistance to Tamir and apparently had not called for assistance beyond reporting a suspect down. The agent attempted to provide first aid and claims Tamir spoke to him giving his name, stating he had been shot and supposedly asking or stating something about a weapon or gun. The agent was not sure what had actually been stated. Initially, the officers were claimed to have agreed that Tamir looked to be about 20 years old. He was, in fact, a large boy weighing about 190 lbs and standing about 5′ 7″ tall. They actually gave an age range of 16-20. However, witnesses stated Tamir’s sister was yelling to them that he was only 12 years old. The FBI agent did state that Tamir had a young looking face.
His sister was assaulted by the officers, handcuffed and placed in a cruiser, reportedly for her safety and to calm her down.
The Prosecutor who took the case before the “Grand Jury”, Timothy J. McGinty, requested the jury not find the officers involved guilty and described the circumstances of Tamir’s death as a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunication”.
In June of 2015, a Cleveland judge found probable cause to try the shooter for murder, involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. Those findings were not, however, binding. So Prosecutor McGinty, despite the officers having their own lawyers, took it upon himself to present cause for no findings from the jury. Among a shopping list of other exceptional, and all too obvious, actions biased in favor of the officers, McGinty allowed the officers to submit written statements to be read to the jury disallowing for any questions the jury might have… and rightfully should have. The jury was shown an “enhanced” video of the incident which clearly shows the officer immediately shot Tamir upon arrival and then, and only then, made the actions of positioning themselves for cover… actions which would have been prudent and proper before moving into direct line with the suspect and before discharging their weapons.
Prosecutor McGinty narrated, for the Jury, what he wished them to take away from the video. He wanted them to believe that, because there were a number of children near the center where the incident took place, this is the scenario which framed the officers’ thinking as they “dealt” with the issue. He wanted them to believe the testimony of FBI so-called experts, that he, not the officers’ attorneys hired, where, on the video, it appears Tamir raised his jacket exposing his toy and moving his hand toward the toy. This is the justification used by Prosecutor McGinty exonerating the officers from foul.
The agent testified that the officers’ procedures were in line with standards. No one questioned that, or any other, claim…recall that the prosecutor was acting as a defense attorney as opposed to actually prosecuting the case. Independent reviews elicited that the officers were clearly idiots who, had there been a real “active shooter”, would very likely have been killed. The shooter was an officer in training and the other officer was his training officer.
Prosecutor McGinty initially claimed the “Grand Jury” would hear all of the evidence in their efforts to make an informed decision. What Prosecutor McGinty actually provided as evidence was what he decided they should hear and how it should be interpreted so as to exonerate the officers. Keep in mind that the “prosecutor” went so far as to hire so-called experts whose testimony would be used to sway the jury against finding guilt. Imagine how many people would daily walk free from charges if all prosecutors worked in such a manner.
The reality is that the Rice family was not represented in that jury hearing and Tamir was blamed for his his own death.
Adding insult to his death, shortly following the shooting, an incident report surfaced stating that the claim against Tamir was “aggravated menacing” and “inducing panic”. The victims listed were: The State of Ohio, Officer Loehmann and Officer Garmback. The complaint is stated to have been “abated by death”. There was no complaint that Tamir had menaced anyone or created any manner of panic within anyone prior to the arrival of the officers who subsequently took his life.
It should not go unmentioned that Officer Loehmann who had previously been employed by the Independence, Ohio Police Department resigned from that department in advance of an impending release from employment. The reasons given for this impending release were stated by Deputy Chief Jim Polak to be “He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal…” Loehmann was reported as “immature”. “weepy”, “distracted” among other observations by Polok.
In November of 2012, Loehmann left an assigned post and compounded this by lying about his absence. Other incidents were also noted in his jacket that Cleveland PD officials avoid questions concerning whether it had been read or considered in hiring him to that force.
With such obvious concerns about his mental status, lack of skills and abilities it is a wonder that any police department would allow him to wear a badge and patrol its streets. It was stated in his jacket that Deputy Chief Polak recommended his dismissal saying “I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”
Prosecutor McGinty apparently does not recognize genuine dark clouds and the presence of a shit storm as opposed to a “perfect storm”.
What few outlets have addressed regarding the theater of the “Grand Jury” and its findings is the clear political trade off involved in the decision. The City of Cleveland will eventually settle lawsuits filed by the Rice family and the City’s failed and faulty police department and officers involved get to wash their hands of the blood justly staining them. Cash will be sprinkled over the truth as a civil procedure where a criminal procedure is absolutely necessary to represent true justice
Tamir Rice was murdered. Justice was failed. A family and friends continue to mourn. Murders by police will continue… and continue to be painted over by prosecutors who are criminals.