DOJ Declines to Charge Officers in Tamir Rice Case
The feds claimed a years-long investigation did not provide any evidence that would warrant criminal charges against the officers involved in the 2014 shooting.
Image via Getty/Robert Nickelsberg
The officers involved in Tamir Rice's fatal shooting will not face federal criminal charges.
The Justice Department announced the decision Tuesday, nearly two months after closing the long-running, high-profile case. According to Cleveland.com, prosecutors who reviewed the investigation determined there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the Cleveland officers who were involved in the 12-year-old's 2014 death.
"... The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted willfully," the DOJ wrote in a statement announcing the closing of the case. "This high legal standard — one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law — requires proof that the officer acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids. It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake, or even exercised bad judgment.
"Although Tamir Rice’s death is tragic, the evidence does not meet these substantial evidentiary requirements. In light of this, and for the reasons explained below, career federal prosecutors with both the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office concluded that this matter is not a prosecutable violation of the federal statutes."
Tamir was shot and killed November 2014, outside a Cleveland recreation center, where he was reportedly playing with a pellet gun. Police received a report about a possible juvenile wielding a "probably fake" pistol and pointing it at passersby. Tamir's presumed age and the belief that the weapon was probably fake were never relayed to officers. Loehmann arrived at the scene shortly after and shot Rice in the torso. The boy died the next day at MetroHealth Medical Center.
The feds supported their decision by pointing to inconsistent witness statements about the events leading up to Rice's shooting. They also said the footage of the shooting was so low quality it was difficult for prosecutors to determine what exactly happened.
".. The officers believed that they were responding to a playground where a grown man was brandishing a real gun at individuals, presumably including children," the DOJ statement continued. "Video from the CPRC captured the subsequent events. It is important to note that the video footage is grainy, shot from a distance, does not show detail or perspective, and portions of the incident are not visible because of the location of the patrol car. Further, the time lapse footage captures approximately two frames per second at a variable rate, which is incapable of capturing continuous action."
Prosecutors also cleared the officers of obstruction of justice, as there were questions on whether they knowingly made false statements to investigators following the shooting. It was determined that Loehmann and Garmback's statements "were generally consistent, particularly on the seminal facts."