CLEVELAND (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict a white rookie police officer in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black youngster who was shot while playing with what turned out to be a pellet gun, a prosecutor said Monday.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said it was “indisputable” that the boy was gunned down while drawing the pistol from his waistband — either to hand the weapon over to police or to show them it wasn’t real. But McGinty said the officer and his partner had no way of knowing that.
“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,” McGinty said. He said patrolman Timothy Loehmann was justified in opening fire: “He had reason to fear for his life.”
Tamir’s family condemned the decision but echoed the prosecutor in urging those disappointed to express themselves “peacefully and democratically.” Barricades were set up outside a Cleveland courthouse in case of protests, and a few demonstrators gathered, holding up pictures of Tamir and others killed by police around the country.
A grainy surveillance-camera video of the boy’s November 2014 shooting provoked outrage nationally, and together with other killings of black people by police in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, it helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement.
Tamir was gunned down by Loehmann within two seconds of the officer’s police cruiser skidding to a stop near the boy outside a city recreation center. Loehmann and his white training partner, Frank Garmback, were responding to a 911 call about a man waving a gun.
Tamir was carrying a borrowed airsoft gun that looked like a real gun but shot nonlethal plastic pellets. It was missing its telltale orange tip.
The grand jury had been hearing evidence and testimony since mid-October.
In explaining the decision not to charge either officer, McGinty said police radio personnel contributed to the tragedy by failing to pass along the “all-important fact” that the 911 caller said the gunman was probably a youngster and the gun probably wasn’t real.
Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Meyer said it was “extremely difficult” to tell the difference between the pellet gun and a real one. And he said Tamir was big for his age — 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, with a men’s XL jacket and size-36 pants — and could have easily passed for someone much older.
Before police arrived, the youngster was seen repeatedly drawing the gun from his waistband and pointing it at other children, Meyer said.
“There have been lessons learned already. It should never happen again, and the city has taken steps so it doesn’t,” McGinty said.
Among other things, the Cleveland police department is putting dashboard cameras in every car and equipping officers with bodycams.
Also, the police department reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department earlier this year to overhaul its use of force. The settlement was prompted largely by a car chase that ended with the killing of a couple in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire.
In a statement, Tamir’s family said it was “saddened and disappointed by this outcome — but not surprised.” It accused the prosecutor of “abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment.”
Tamir’s family charged that McGinty improperly hired use of-force experts to tell the grand jury that Loehmann’s actions were reasonable. The family also said that the prosecutor allowed the officers to read statements to the grand jury without being subjected to cross-examination.
The family renewed its request for the U.S. Justice Department to step in and conduct “a real investigation.” Federal prosecutors in Cleveland noted Monday that a civil rights investigation into the case is already underway.
In addition, Tamir’s family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the two officers and the city.”
Read the rest at townhall.com
Rest in peace, power, and in the arms of our loving embrace, dear Tamir; tragically, you’ll be twelve years old…forever.
(The most recent coverage of the trial testifying at the Café is here: ‘Cuyahoga Prostitutor McGinty Releases Another Cop-Vindicating Report in the Execution of Tamir Rice’, November 13, 2015)
America has failed you, yet again. This nation gorges on our flesh, and yet it is never satiated. Your mother’s wails could not wake democracy from its deep slumber. And we cannot protect you, not from a brutal and lonely death, not from vilification, not from the exoneration of your murderers. We are powerless, and we mourn. It must seem the case that our people are insane. We march and march and keep marching, getting the same results but forever expecting America to be different.
So we must change. Law and order—a whip and a gun— can be our only expectation and unreasonable the force that will be used on our flesh. You were the burnt offering for America’s second sin. What are we to believe of a nation that claims its right to exist on stolen land?
In your name, dear one, we shall take to the streets and register our lamentations before idols that have eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear. Our cry is not for them but for our own ears lest we become dumb. Neither the maddening fact that we are never safe nor the insufferable truth of degradation can be your eulogy.
Your name sounds like Trayvon. It alone warranted democracy to let loose its vanity on your precious self. The mere sight of you caused men to bear arms against a baby. Our cry will march—some may burn— others will pray. A few will do all of above. America will continue along her merry way not batting an eyelid or shedding a tear.
I am sure you were taught to always tell the truth. And yet your homeland was founded by liars; the whole lot of them. The scared text of the democracy—the Constitution—is a bible of lies. For none of these scriptures hold true for you, nor your mother, her mother, or her mother before her. Those who gunned you down are sworn to protect and serve on the basis of a two-fold lie—that we are not human and that democracy is real. America is as far from the truth as you are from your mother’s touch. Yet we believe.
The United States continues to be a war zone for us. If you had lived, you’d have heard the names Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Jamar Clark. Your young mind would have wrestled with their lives lost, perhaps wondered if you were next. You fell before them and we carry you all because we believe—not in the country or its constitution – but in you.
All we have left is our undying love for our future. I bet you heard old folks talk about the good old days. How they wished your generation could be more like theirs. Nostalgia is a form of mourning, because the present is unbearable, and the future is unforeseeable. You are all we can see. Rest in peace knowing that we will resist.
Our resistance, like our expectations, must change. It is clear the mainstream is a cesspool and the ever-so-cherished Dream is an [un]reality show. At times, our resistance is tainted by the intoxicating fantasy of America. Fallacious sentiments abound: “If they knew more” or “If we did better”… causing the speaker and hearer alike to believe the lie. Cameras cannot save us. The world saw you murdered, and still they deny it. We contort our righteous rage to fit into a cell reserved for prisoners of hope. Thus we must become something else—ourselves. Full and free—swinging on swings—living as though our lives depend upon. Living into us until there is no lie. For sure this has been our fore-parent’s aspiration since being forced to this godforsaken land.
Lives – America’s commodity – are bought and stolen every other day but we must live. This is our hope. To keep doing the very thing that was denied to you. There is nothing ironic about that choice. If we are alive then we might have a chance at joy. To be black and live in America is to resist, and to live a life of resistance demands a sense of joy.
We are crying now and filled with rage because we are what they say we are not – human. Though capricious death is our ever-present companion, we breathe in spite of it. In the midst of a death dealing civilization, the life of a black child taken too soon – as most are – takes our breath every time but for a moment. Demands for forgiveness are followed by the necessity to “keep on keeping on” and a mighty people keeps trying not to die. We live with the expectation that they will continue to kill us. And for that I am sorry. But we will continue to resist. We will not cease to resist.
Yours in love and lament,
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
Amen, and bless your heart, Rev Sekou.