By Manny Otiko
A new report released by an Ohio prosecutor has only fueled further controversy over the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland, Ohio boy who was shot by local police after brandishing a BB gun in a park.
According to USA Today, the 224-page report released on Saturday by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, states Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann was forced to shoot Rice after he disobeyed his order to surrender. Loehmann claimed he ordered Rice to drop his weapon, and when he refused, he was forced to shoot him.
However, eyewitness accounts differ from the report given by Loehmann. While Loehmann claims he ordered Rice to drop his weapon, eyewitnesses say they don’t remember hearing any commands. Also the video shows the squad car pulling up and Loehmann shooting Rice within two seconds of arrival. There are many other conflicting pieces of information in the official police report. The police report claims Rice was with a group of people, when he was alone. Police also stated Rice pulled the gun out of his waistband, forcing Loehmann to shoot, but this is not seen on the tape.
The report, which was produced by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, also noted neither Loehmann nor his partner Officer Frank Garmback performed first aid on the mortally wounded Rice. Medical assistance was provided by an FBI agent, who happened to be in the area. Apparently Cleveland police officers are not provided with emergency medical training and their cars do not contain first-aid kits.
The sheriff’s department report also stated Loehmann said, “[Rice] gave me no choice. He reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do.” The FBI agent also said Loehmann appeared distraught over the shooting, when he realized Rice’s age.
Loehmann has a troubling record as a police officer. He quit a job with a suburban police department after his supervisors said he was not equipped to handle the stresses of law enforcement. According to The New York Times, the Cleveland Police admitted they had never asked to review Loehmann’s personnel files during the hiring process.
In 2014, the City of Cleveland paid $100,000 to settle a case with Tamela Eaton, who accused Garmback and another officer of hitting her, placing her in a choke hold and twisting her arm.
Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine found probable cause to issue arrests warrants for Loehmann and Garmback. According to The Atlantic, Adrine said Loehmann should be charged with several crimes, including “involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.”
The Cleveland Police Department (CPD) has a checkered history and has been accused of abusive behavior, mainly targeted towards African Americans, in the past.
A two-year Justice Department investigation of the CPD stated the department had a pattern of using unnecessary force and engaging in reckless behavior.
Speaking in The New York Times, former Attorney General Eric Holder said Cleveland’s police problems were caused by “systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies and inadequate engagement with the community.”
Michael Brelo, a Cleveland Police officer, was recently acquitted on manslaughter charges after a high-speed chase lead to the fatal shooting of two unarmed African Americans.
However, in spite of the tragic nature of Tamir Rice’s death, it has forced Cleveland to deal with several difficult issues about policing and African American males.
Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morrow interviewed several young boys from Rice’s neighborhood and found they were surprisingly sympathetic towards the slain boy and the officers.
“I think it was a misunderstanding. The cop that shot Tamir didn’t know it was a toy gun. And he (Tamir) didn’t know what he was supposed to do,” said U’Asi Wright, a local teenager.