CLEVELAND (CN) – The mother of Tamir Rice wept at a rally Friday as she called for an independent prosecutor to take over the criminal investigation of police officers who shot her 12-year-old son to death nearly a year ago.
The call to recuse Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty comes nearly a week after McGinty’s office released three expert reports regarding the Nov. 22, 2014, death of Rice.
Two of the reports conclude that Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann’s decision to shoot Rice less than two seconds after exiting his police cruiser was constitutional and “objectively reasonable.” Rice had been playing alone in the park with a toy gun on the afternoon he was killed.
McGinty’s office noted in an Oct. 10 statement announcing the reports that Rice’s case that demands “a higher level of public scrutiny,” but the Rice family and their attorneys claim the move tainted the grand-jury process and shows that McGinty is not committed to securing an indictment against Loehmann and his partner at the time of the shooting, Frank Garmback.
Dozens turned out Friday at a press conference the Rice family held to express their frustration and anger about the McGinty has handled the investigation and delayed presentation of the case to a grand jury.
“Since the senseless shooting of my son, Tamir Rice, I have had many sleepless nights and days,” Samaria Rice said, surrounded by her family, her attorneys and community activists. “Almost a year now: no justice, no peace.”
In a letter to McGinty hours before the rally, the Rice family’s attorneys pointed to expedient indictments of police officers involved in fatal shootings in South Carolina and Baltimore. “No reasonable prosecutorial effort should be taking this long, especially under the circumstances of this case,” they wrote.
One of those attorneys, Jonathan Abady, became emotional at the press conference as he accused the prosecutor of having actively sought out experts with pro-police biases.
“We understand that there is a necessity for time to do a thorough and careful examination and investigation, but a year is a long time and this family has been concerned about the passage of time,” Abady said. “And this family has been asking, why is this taking so long?”
“What are you doing,” the attorney thundered. “And last Saturday, over a holiday weekend at 8 p.m., we learned what they’ve been doing for all these months. What they were doing was being out there in the country looking for someone, so-called experts, that would say that this killing of this 12-year-old child was justified.”
Insisting that Rice’s case calls for an independent prosecutor, Abady spoke about the close alliance police officers and their local prosecutors share.
“They work every day together,” Abady said. “The police rely on the prosecutors. The prosecutors rely on the police. They are like a family. And what has been proven over time is some members of these families, the prosecutors, have a great deal of difficulty in acting impartially and fairly when it comes to assessing and investigating allegations of police misconduct. And that is why in many instances where there are shootings or egregious examples of police misconduct, people call for an independent investigation.”
Rice’s attorneys reminded the crowd that this past June, seven months after Tamir’s death, Judge Ronald Adrine of the Cleveland Municipal Court found that probable cause did exist to pursue criminal charges against Loehman and Garmback.
Tamir’s mother, Samaria, began crying as Abady reminded the crowd that another local police department had fired officer Loehmann, and that several others rejected him the Cleveland Division of Police gave him a badge. Loehmann’s background is explained at length in a civil lawsuit the Rice family filed weeks after the shooting.
“This is a police officer who was found to be emotionally unstable, unfit for duty, by another police department, the Independence Police Department,” Abady said. “This is an officer who broke down on the firing range during a gun examination and they had to confiscate his weapon. He had his weapon confiscated! He failed the police entrance exam and he failed it miserably. This is a police officer who lied to supervisors. Who was rejected by five police departments in his attempt to get a job. The Cleveland Police Department hired him. This is the officer that these experts said was reasonable.”
Attorneys for the Rice family also questioned McGinty’s decision to retain experts for a grand jury presentation. Their letter to McGinty states:”The unorthodox, if not unprecedented, use of expert reports at this stage off the criminal proceeding is all the more troubling because these reports are clearly designed to exculpate the officers. Typically, biased reports of this type are offered by criminal defense lawyers at trial.”
In the likely scenario that McGinty refuses to hand the investigation over to a special prosecutor, Rice’s attorneys alternatively request that McGinty publically state his position about whether probable cause exists and whether he will be advocating for an indictment.
In addition to Abady, Samaria Rice is represented by Earl Ward of the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff and Abady, as well as Subodh Chandra and William Mills.
The two reports that characterize Rice’s shooting as reasonable come from Denver-based prosecutor S. Lamar Sims and from retired FBI supervisory special agent Kimberly Crawford.
While these reports “evaluate the use of deadly force” against Rice, the third report, from the Ohio Highway Patrol, represents only “a technical reconstruction of conditions at Cudell Recreation Center” on the day of Rice’s shooting, McGinty’s office notes on its website.
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