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Cuyahoga Grand Jury Clears Cleveland Officers in Fatal Shooting of 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice

Photo of tribute to Tamir Rice

A Cleveland grand jury has decided against indicting two police officers in the November 2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Prosecutor Tim McGinty says a "perfect storm of human error" led to the death of Tamir Rice, who was holding what turned out to be a toy pellet gun when he was shot by police within two seconds of their arriving.

"The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy. It was horrible, unfortunate and regrettable. But it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime."

The boy was shot outside the Cudell recreation center on Cleveland's west side on a Saturday afternoon, Nov. 22, 2014, after a 9-1-1 caller reported someone pointing a gun outside the center was making people nervous. The 9-1-1 dispatcher never told the officers the caller repeatedly said the gun was likely fake, and the person with it was likely a juvenile.

Assistant Prosecutor Matt Meyer says that led the officers to act on one set of beliefs, "that a real man, with a real gun, was threatening innocent people's lives at a recreation center."


Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.

The decision not to indict Cleveland officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, wraps up a more than year-long criminal investigation by the Cuyahoga County sheriff, prosecutor and grand jury.

McGinty says newly enhanced video shows that it is "indisputable" that Tamir was removing his gun from his waistband when he was shot. He says it's almost certain that the boy intended to hand it over to the officers or to show them that it wasn't a real gun. But he says there's no way the officers could have known that.

And, McGinty says, it all led to tragic results:

"Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police."

Given the circumstances,  Assistant Prosecutor Meyer says an acquittal of the officers was almost certain had they been charged.

"We do not believe that any reasonable judge or a jury would find criminal conduct in officer Loehmann's reation to a suspect pulling what he thought was a real gun."

After the grand jury decision was announced, the city announced it is launching an investigation into whether the two officers should still face disciplinary charges. The U.S. Attorney's office said it will continue an independent review. The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association said the decision was the right one. And several dozen protesters began marches.

M.L. Schultze is a freelance journalist. She spent 25 years at The Repository in Canton where she was managing editor for nearly a decade, then served as WKSU's news director and digital editor until her retirement.
Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.