The decision to not press charges against two Cleveland police officers for the shooting death of Tamir Rice was an obvious one.
A grand jury cleared two Cleveland police officers in the November 2014 fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was brandishing a toy gun in a park, after finding a series of mistakes but no criminal activity, a prosecutor said on Monday.
The decision drew calls on social media for protests around the country and a special prosecutor days after another fatal shooting by Chicago police of two black residents increased pressure on that department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The Ohio grand jury had heard weeks of testimony on the Rice shooting, which occurred within seconds after police reached a park next to a Cleveland recreation center in response to reports of a suspect with a gun. Rice died the next day.
Two officers responded to a “man with a gun” call. As they pulled up just feet away from the suspect, the 5’7″, 195 lbs. figure wearing baggy clothes reached for the butt of a handgun stuck in the front of his pants.
Officer Timothy Loehmann saw Rice reaching for the gun as the squad car slowed to a stop, and immediately drew and fired his gun as soon as he cleared the squad car’s door.
It was only later that officers would discover that the “gunman” who had been pointing a realistic handgun at people in the park was a large-for-his-age 12-year-old boy, and that the gun was a realistic airsoft gun.
Three separate use-of-force experts could not fault Loehmann’s actions in the tragic circumstances, nor could the grand jury once they’d been educated on defensive use of force guidelines.
Rice’s decisions that day, from pointing the airsoft gun at strangers to reaching for the realistic replica gun as a marked Cleveland Police car slowed to a stop just feet away, lead to his death. Rice’s poor decision to reach for the butt of his gun forced Officer Loehmann to respond as any officer following his training would.
Rice’s death was and remains a tragedy, but it was clearly not a crime.