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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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New Reports Call Tamir Rice Shooting Unjustified

CLEVELAND (CN) - With a Cuyahoga County grand jury deliberating on whether to seek criminal charges against the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year, attorneys for the Rice family released two expert reports concluding that the shooting was excessive, unreasonable and unjustified.

Released on Black Friday, the reports come as the Rice family marks one year since rookie police officer Timothy Loehmann decided to use deadly force less than two seconds after his police cruiser stopped outside Cudell Recreation Center on the west side of Cleveland where Rice had been playing alone with a toy gun.

Three experts commissioned by the office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty who studied Rice's Nov. 22, 2014, death have each concluded that the use of deadly force was "objectively reasonable" and constitutional.

Each of the reports McGinty released either have or will be presented to the grand jury in the Rice investigation, and Rice's family has complained consistently this fall that McGinty hired biased experts and has tainted the grand-jury process by releasing their findings.

Loehmann and his partner, Officer Frank Garmback, were responding to a 911 call about a black male who kept pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people, but the officers were not told that the caller described the gun as "probably fake" and its bearer as "probably a juvenile."

McGinty's experts had credited Loehmann's assertion that he reasonably perceived that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm, primarily because he matched the description provided by the dispatcher and because the boy supposedly reached toward his waistband as the patrol car was approaching.

Attorneys for the Rice family's released their experts' findings to the contrary on Saturday evening, concluding that Loehmann and Garmback engaged in reckless tactical decisionmaking, placing themselves in harm's way and creating the perceived danger that led to the shooting.

Both reports cite a Sixth Circuit precedent from the 2008 case Kirby v. Duva, which says, "Where a police officer unreasonably places himself in harm's way, his use of deadly force may be deemed excessive."

Roger Clark, a retired lieutenant from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, is the author of one report, and the other comes from Jeffrey Noble, a retired deputy chief of police with the Irvine Police Department in southern California.

Both question Loehmann's fitness for duty and highlight his history of immaturity, dishonesty and mental instability while working as an officer at another Cleveland-area law enforcement agency, the Independence Police Department.

Loehmann resigned from his position with that police department after learning of his impending termination. The Cleveland Division of Police hired him less than one year later.

Jonathan Abady, an attorney for the Rice family with the Manhattan firm Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady, sent McGinty a letter accompanying the reports, asking that the grand jury consider these materials as well as the finds of the county's experts.

"We understand that the presentation of these reports, making clear that the shooting of this 12-year-old boy was completely unjustified and unreasonable, will likely not undo the damage already done to the grand jury process, but we think it important that the grand jury be given the opportunity to consider the testimony and findings of true experts to explain why this killing was unjustified," Abady wrote.

As these materials were circulated Saturday, McGinty's office released a frame-by-frame breakdown of the video surveillance footage that captured Rice's brief but fatal encounter with Loehmann and Garmback.

Earlier this month, Cleveland religious leaders and community activists joined the Rice family in calling for McGinty to step down from the grand jury process, in favor of an independent prosecutor, when McGinty told a local television reporter that the Emery Celli attorneys had "economic motives."

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