CLEVELAND (CN) - Two police officers behind the shooting of Tamir Rice submitted statements, as pressure to indict them for the 12-year-old's death comes to a head.
Though statements by Cleveland Police Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback on the Nov. 22, 2014, tragedy have been long awaited, video of the shooting captured by a surveillance camera has been widely circulated.
The footage shows Loehmann shooting Rice within two seconds of Garmback pulling their squad car to a halt at the park where Rice had been playing alone with an airsoft pellet gun.
In their statements filed Monday with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department, both officers claim that Rice was pulling the gun from his waistband as Loehmann exited the patrol car.
Loehmann, a rookie officer still on probation, and Garmback, his training officer, had been the first to arrive on the scene after police received a 911 call about a black male waving a gun around and pointing it at people.
Both officers state that they observed someone matching the description provided by the dispatcher, and feared he was going to run into the nearby Cuddell Recreation Center.
As the patrol car slid toward Rice on the park's snow-covered grass, however, they say Rice turned toward them, rather than fleeing.
Loehmann and Garmback both claim that they directed Rice to show his hands, though Garmback's statement indicates that the car windows were up at the time.
"As the car slid, I started to open the door and yelled continuously 'show me your hands' as loud as I could," Loehmann's statement says. "I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time. I was fixed on his waistband and hand area. I was trained to keep my eyes on his hands because 'hands may kill.'"
Loehmann also claims he refrained from shooting as Rice lifted his shirt and reached down into his waistband. "Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn't fire," the officer's statement says. "I was still yelling the command 'show me your hands.'"
After exiting the vehicle, Loehmann says he observed Rice pulling the gun out of his waistband.
"With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out. I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active."
Loehmann says he fired two shots toward the gun in Rice's hand, based on "tap-tap" training.
Neither of the officers' statements address their failure to provide first aid to Rice as he lay bleeding on the ground. Rice died early the next morning at a hospital.
The statements represent the first time either Loehmann and Garmback has spoken publicly about Rice.
They come on the heels of independently obtained expert reports released over Thanksgiving weekend by attorneys for Rice's estate and his mother, Samaria Rice. The reports characterize Loehmann's use of deadly force as "excessive, objectively unreasonable and inconsistent with generally accepted police practices."
In a statement accompanying the Tuesday release of Loehmann and Garmback's statements, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said: "The investigation is continuing and ultimately the grand jury will make its decision based on all the evidence."
Rice family attorney Jonathan Abady denounced the officers' statements.
"Allowing defendant police officers to submit unsworn statements in response to grand-jury subpoenas that call for their live testimony is again a stunning irregularity further tainting these proceedings," Abady with the firm Emery Celli said in a statement "No regular target of a criminal investigation would be afforded this opportunity."
Abady added: "Submitting self-serving, unsworn written statements to the grand jury, rather than appearing live so that their version of events could be subject to cross examination and questioning by the grand jurors, suggests the officers know their story would not withstand real scrutiny."
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.