Charges Sought in Police Killing of Tamir Rice

     CLEVELAND (CN) – Probable cause supports the filing of a murder charge against one of the Cleveland police officers who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a judge found Thursday.
     Judge Ronald Adrine of Cleveland Municipal Court cited affidavits by eight activists and clergy members in directing prosecutors to file a complaint charging officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
     Adrine also called for a complaint against officer Frank Garmback, charging him with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
     Tensions have been running high in Cleveland in the wake of Rice’s shooting on Nov. 22, which occurred just one week before the U.S. Department of Justice issued a blistering report about the Cleveland Police Department’s “troubling patterns” of using excessive and deadly force against suspects.
     In the intervening months, the administrator of Rice’s estate has filed a civil lawsuit against Loehmann, Garmback and Cleveland, while the acquittal of another Cleveland police officer in an unrelated incident where unarmed black citizens died has heightened the community’s frustration. A federal judge approved Cleveland’s settlement to the Justice Department action on June 12.
     Adrine’s 10-page judgment on Loehmann and Garmback notes that the officers came into contact with Rice after someone called 911 to report a black male waiving a gun outside the Cudell Recreation Center on Cleveland’s West Side.
     During the call, which was later released by Cleveland Police Department, the caller observed that the person with the gun was “probably juvenile” and repeatedly stated that the gun was “probably fake.”
     Adrine calls surveillance footage of the shooting “notorious and hard to watch.”
     Each of the affidavits in the case relied on that video in claiming to have knowledge of the case, according to the order.
     “After viewing it several times, the court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly,” Adrine wrote.
     Surveillance videos show Rice sitting in a gazebo at a park near the recreation center as Garmback drives his patrol car onto the grass and stops just a few feet away. As Loehmann exits the passenger side of the patrol car near the child, Rice begins stepping toward the vehicle.
     Adrine notes that the video “does not appear to show him [Rice] making any furtive movement prior to, or at, the moment he is shot.”
     “Again, because of the quality of the vide, the young man’s arms are barely visible, but they do not appear to be raised or outstretched,” the order states.
     There is no sign of the toy gun in Rice’s hands in either the moments before or as the patrol car approaches, Adrine added.
     “There appears to be little if any time reflected on the video for Rice to react or respond to any verbal or audible commands given from Loehmann and Garmback,” Adrine wrote, adding that the entire encounter is literally over in an instant.
     Just 18 seconds preceded the point where Rice “suffers the wound, doubles-up and falls the ground,” according to the order.
     Rice had already been shot before the patrol car even came to a stop, Adrine added.
     In the four minutes after the shooting, neither officer approached Rice as he lay dying on the ground.
     The video shows Rice’s sister “being restrained from going to her brother’s side.”
     Paramedics arrived nearly eight minutes in, and Adrine says the tape quality makes it difficult to discern “what, if any, first aid” Rice received in those eight minutes.
     Nearly 14 minutes elapsed from the moment of the shooting to the time of Rice’s removal from the park.
     Rice died from his injuries at the hospital the next day.
     In declining to actually issue arrest warrants for officers Loehmann and Garmback, Adrine noted that this authority rests with city and county prosecutors.
     One June 9, a day after the affidavits were signed, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association remarked on how “miserable the lives of these self-appointed ‘activists, civil rights leaders, and clergy’ must be.”
     Capitalizing his words to emphasize his outage, association president Steve Loomis calls it a “FACT that a 5’7″ tall 191 pound person pulled a replica Colt 45 handgun out of his waistband as two uniformed police officers in a marked police car were approaching him.”
     The affidavits were filed under Ohio Revised Code 2935.09, an Ohio law that affords private citizens with “knowledge of the facts” the ability to cause an arrest or prosecution.
     They were signed by Dr. Jawanza Colvin, the pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Dr. Rhonda Williams, director of the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University, Edward Little Jr., a criminal justice consultant, Dr. R.A. Vernon, the pastor of The Word Church, Joseph Worthy Jr., an organizer for the Children’s Defense Fund, Julia A. Shearson, executive director of the Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Bakari Kiwana, author of Hip-Hop Generation, and Rachelle Smith, a community activist.
     Adrine forwarded his determination to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, which is currently reviewing the results of an investigation into the shooting conducted by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department.
     Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has indicted that the decision to pursue criminal charges against Loehmann and Garmback will still rest with a grand jury.

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