CLEVELAND - After more than a year of investigation, a grand jury declined to bring charges against either of the two police officers involved in the fatal November 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was playing with a toy weapon in a Cleveland park.
In announcing the decision Monday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he did not recommend that the grand jury bring any charges. McGinty added that he believes both of the Cleveland police officers involved in the deadly encounter were reasonable in their belief that Tamir had a real weapon, and that new analysis of the video of the shooting leaves it "indisputable" that the boy was pulling the weapon from his waistband when he was killed.
"The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it," McGinty said. "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."
Tamir was fatally shot by Officer Tim Loehmann, a rookie on the Cleveland police force, on Nov. 22, 2014, as the boy played with a toy gun in a public park. The grand jury also reviewed the actions of Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback. The officers said in statements released earlier this month that Tamir appeared much older and reached for the toy gun that was tucked in his waistband before Loehmann shot at him.
Police officers are rarely charged after on-duty shootings. There have been at least 975 police fatal shootings in the United States this year, according to a Washington Post database; officers have been charged with a crime in just eight of those shootings.
Prosecutors and grand juries have also indicted a number of officers this year for fatal shootings that occurred in previous years.
McGinty said that the shooting death of Rice did not meet the standard of a crime.
"The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy, but it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime," McGinty said, before adding that he informed Tamir's mother of the decision before announcing it publicly. "It was a tough conversation. . . . She was broken up."
In a statement issued not long after the prosecutor's announcement, attorneys for Tamir's family decried the grand jury process and renewed their calls for the Department of Justice to bring federal charges.
"It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment," the family attorneys said. "Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified. It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire 'experts' to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation."
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio said Monday that federal officials monitored the grand-jury process, and that the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is conducting its own independent investigation into Tamir's death.
"We will continue our independent review of this matter, assess all available materials and determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws," the office said in a statement.
Tamir's death came just days before massive protests and unrest would break out in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City after officers in those cities were cleared in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The deadly shooting here prompted a round of protests that at times blocked freeways and interrupted public meetings, with local residents demanding indictments for Loehmann and Garmback. Local activist groups vowed on Monday, a cold and rainy day, to again take to the streets, and Mayor Frank Jackson urged calm during a late afternoon news conference.
And, though some protesters gathered, all remained calm in downtown Cleveland and at the Cudell Recreation Center, the west-side park where Rice was killed. By 3:45 p.m. some demonstrators had begun to gather, with signs demanding "Justice for Tamir Rice" and declaring the boy "stolen by law enforcement."
On the day of the shooting, the two officers were responding to a call about a young man with a gun who was pointing it at people outside a local recreation center. Although the caller specified to the dispatcher that the person in question was possibly a child playing with a toy, that information was not relayed to the officers.