Expert: Cleveland Police Officer Had No Choice But To Shoot Tamir Rice

This airsoft pellet gun was taken from 12-year-old Tamir Rice (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
This airsoft pellet gun was taken from 12-year-old Tamir Rice (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

A third police use-of-force expert has concluded that Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann had no choice but to shoot 5’7″, 195 lbs Tamir Rice after he reached for a very realistic-looking handgun in his waistband:

A white Cleveland police officer had no choice but to fatally shoot a 12-year-old black boy carrying a pellet gun, an expert on police use of force said in a report released publicly Thursday by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

Retired Florida police officer W. Ken Katsaris is the third expert who has concluded that patrolman Timothy Loehmann was justified in shooting Tamir Rice outside a Cleveland recreation center Nov. 22, 2014.

The release of the latest report comes at a time when a county grand jury is hearing evidence from prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Loehmann, who was a rookie a year ago, and his training officer, patrolman Frank Garmback.

“This unquestionably was a tragic loss of life,” Katsaris wrote. “But to compound the tragedy by labeling the officers’ conduct as anything but objectively reasonable would also be a tragedy.”

Attorneys for the family of Tamir Rice have been incensed by the release of the expert reports and have called for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take over the case. The attorneys have said the experts, including Katsaris, are clearly biased in favor of police.

“Regrettably, with the release of yet another utterly biased and shamelessly misguided ‘expert report’ the County Prosecutor is making clear his intention to protect the police from accountability under the criminal laws, rather than diligently prosecute them,” attorney Jonathan Abady of New York said in a statement Thursday.

McGinty said his office hasn’t reached any conclusions about the case or what recommendation he will make to the grand jury.

I’d make the argument that Loehmann was in a no-win situation. He was in the passenger seat of the squad car driven by Garmback, and either by accident (slick, snow-covered grass was present) or design, Garmback stopped the car mere yards from Rice.

When Loehmann exited the vehicle, he was just 3-4 yards from Rice, with no immediate cover (cars doors are not cover) and limited options.

When Rice, for whatever reason, decided to reach for that very realistic handgun in his pants, that is what is known as a “furtive gesture.”

Police officers (and for that matter, concealed carriers) must react to the gesture and not wait for the suspect to complete drawing a gun before acting. They must react to that original, triggering movement and decide to fire early enough to bring their sights on target, focus on the front sight, and press the trigger. If they were trained any other way, they’d consistently be on the losing side of gun fights.

It’s a horrible thing that Tamir Rice is dead, but it was his choice to point a realistic airsoft gun at strangers that resulted in a 911 call, and his poor decision to reach for that gun when police responded to that call which put a series of events into motion and resulted in his death.

It may be hard for the family to hear, but the facts are the facts: the person most directly responsible for Tamir Rice’s death is Tamir Rice.