Frustrations have been growing in Cleveland after months of very little progress on the case of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Black boy who was fatally shot by officer Timothy Loehmann mere seconds after he arrived at the scene.
But as the case has finally started to move forward, even just slightly, it seems the legal proceedings are already off to a bittersweet start.
Judge Ronald Adrine of the Cleveland Municipal Court announced on Thursday that he found probable cause to charge both Loehmann and officer Frank Garmback in Rice’s death.
The judge recommended charges of murder, manslaughter, reckless homicide and negligent homicide against Loehmann and charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against Garmback, Loehmann’s partner.
It seems like a glimmer of hope and a sign of substantial progress, especially considering the fact that in Ohio there is a little-known law that allows citizens to appeal directly to a judge to “commence a prosecution of the officer,” The Guardian reports.
In other words, the judge’s findings could have been enough to have both officers charged if the prosecution wanted to do so. But that, as has been in the case in many police killings, is the ultimate catch.
Despite the judge showing clear disdain for Loehmann and his partner’s actions, the prosecution insisted that a grand jury will still have the final say—a crowd of people who have a history of leaning in favor of the cops.
“This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury,” Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement. “That has been the policy of this office since I was elected. Ultimately, the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged.”
It was a clear dismissal of Adrine’s 10-page order in which he slams Lohmann’s actions and adds that he was “thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly.”
The judge found that the young boy was given “little if any time” to respond to any commands by the officers, although Loehmann insisted he asked Rice to put the toy gun down multiple times.
When one of the locals made the call about a disturbance, she noted that the gun was “probably fake” but it isn’t clear if dispatchers gave that information to the officers.
“Literally, the entire encounter is over in an instant,” he added.
But even as the prosecution is already showing clear signs of approaching the case in a manner that would best benefit the officers, the Rice family attorney is still grateful to see some sort of progress.
“We are very much relieved and it is a step towards procedural justice and people having access to their government,” Walter Madison, the attorney representing the Rice family, told The Guardian.
There is also hope that the judge’s findings will set the tone for the rest of the case but, as the nation has seen in the past, the way a prosecutor presents a case to the grand jury could make all the difference in getting an indictment.