By Final Call News
With the decision not to indict officers in the killing of Tamir Rice in Cleveland Black people once again come face to face with what happens when you “respect the process” and “reserve judgment:” Nothing.
Over a year after the 12-year-old was shot to death in a park after playing with a toy gun, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced Dec. 28 that a grand jury had decided not to charge either Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shots, or his partner Frank Garmback. Both officers remain on administrative duty.
Prosecutor McGinty told the media “a perfect storm of human error” occurred but it “did not constitute criminal action by police.” Police officers “who must make a split second decision” are given leeway under the law, he said.
Once again no indictment, just as there was no indictment in the deaths of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, Mo., Sandra Bland in Texas, Eric Garner in New York, Ronald Johnson in Chicago, and countless others who died after some encounter with law enforcement.
The outcome in Cleveland, which has a Black mayor and Black police chief, was not surprising and Tamir’s family was not shocked by the failure to indict.
“Today, more than a year after Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a grand jury voted not to indict the shooter. Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome –but not surprised,” said family attorney Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra.
“It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand-jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment. Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired socalled expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified. It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire ‘experts’ to try to exonerate the targets of a grand-jury investigation. These are the sort of ‘experts’ we would expect the officer’s criminal-defense attorney to hire–not the prosecutor.
“Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on crossexamination. Even though it is black-letter law that taking the stand waives the Fifth Amendment right to be silent, the prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse. This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects.
“The way Prosecutor McGinty has mishandled the grand-jury process has compounded the grief of this family.
“The Rice family is grateful for all the community support they have received and urges people who want to express their disappointment with how Prosecutor McGinty has handled this process to do so peacefully and democratically. We renew our request that the Department of Justice step in to conduct a real investigation into this tragic shooting of a 12-year-old child,” the attorney said in a statement.
Commentator Van Jones called the decision “preposterous” and pointed out how the officers went barreling toward Tamir in their squad car, putting themselves in potential danger and shooting their way out.
Meanwhile the mayor of Cleveland mumbled his way through his own press conference, speaking of an administrative process to review what officers did or didn’t do and not predicting any outcome that could mean holding the police officers accountable in any way. The Black police chief repeated the mayor’s basic points.
The failure of a dispatcher to relay to officers that a 911 caller said the gun was likely a toy and the person holding might be a child seems to be another failure that allows this killing to be ruled justified.
But there are some aspects of this case that cannot, should not, must not be ignored or explained away. Even some aspects of a petition by the public calling for charges against an officer, using an obscure legal tool, were seen to have merit by a judge.
There are also reports from experts hired by the Rice family about what happened that tragic day last November.
“Officer Loehmann claims he and Officer Garmback were yelling at Tamir, ‘Show me your hands.’ Yet, the vehicle’s windows were closed (as confirmed by Officer Garmback in his statement) and Officer Loehmann shot Tamir within a second of his door opening. Moreover, if the officers had indeed been yelling, ‘Show me your hands,’ and Tamir was attempting to comply with the officers’ orders, it follows that Tamir may have been raising his hand as he had been ordered,” wrote expert Jeffrey J. Noble, former deputy police chief of the Irvine Police Department, in his report.
“Officers Garmback and Loehmann engaged in reckless tactical decision making that created the danger, thus the use of deadly force was excessive, objectively unreasonable and inconsistent with generally accepted police practices,” Mr. Noble, who has examined thousands of shooting cases, concluded.
“Officer Loehmann has a history of untruthfulness as a police officer and his prior acts of untruthfulness impact his credibility. In this matter, the credibility of Officer Loehmann is also questionable due to his alleged statements at the scene to other officers that he gave Tamir commands, yet the video and the fact the patrol car’s windows were rolled up call into question such claims,” he said.
“Officer Loehmann should have never been employed by the Cleveland Division of Police due to his prior acts of untruthfulness as a police officer and his apparent unfitness for duty,” he wrote.
“Officers Garmback and Loehmann acted in a callous disregard for Tamir’s life when they failed to make any attempts at providing basic first aid to Tamir after he had been shot and after he had been secured. These very basic first aid efforts would have included efforts to use direct pressure to stop any bleeding and to ensure Tamir had an open airway by adjusting his neck,” the expert said.
“Unlike the reports originally solicited by the prosecutor, these new independent reports consider all relevant facts–including the recklessness of the officers’ behavior in rushing upon Tamir, the immediacy of Officer Loehmann’s shots, and the fact that the officers left a 12-year-old boy bleeding and dying on the ground without first aid,” Atty. Chandra said in a media report. “And the new reports–unlike the prosecutor’s– don’t make up non-existent officer testimony or ignore binding federal constitutional law holding that officers can’t create the perceived danger they later use to try to justify their conduct.”
Now there have come continued pleas for the Justice Department to look into the case. But in reality, the federal government has been just as loathe to charge officers with crimes as local prosecutors.
The situation is so bad it can hardly be called a failure, after all the system cannot fail those it was never, ever designed to protect.