Sunday marked the first anniversary of the death of 12- year-old Tamir Rice, the Cleveland boy who was shot to death by police while playing in a park with a toy gun. Like other Black bodies taken out by law enforcement–Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and so many others—justice has not been served for his family. Described as the Emmett Till of Cleveland, Rice’s death has helped to galvanize a community and a movement around the killing of Black people due to police violence.
Recently, a grand jury has taken the case. Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, is preparing to testify before the grand jury later this month. Previously uninvolved in politics, Rice has been placed front and center in a national movement. “I was just a mom raising my kids,” she told the New York Daily News. “It’s a lot to take on, but I want change across this country. I know I’ve got some type of power now and I’m going to use it. Nobody should have to live like this.”
The Rice family is frustrated by the lack of action in the case to date.
“I have a lot of sadness, a lot of emotions. It’s a struggle for me and my family,” she said. “I was guaranteed a thorough investigation. I never imagined it would take this long. Maybe they thought that this was going to go away, but my son did not die for nothing. This will never go away. They have a duty to tell me what happened.”
The prosecutor, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty, has faced stiff criticism for sitting on his hands and refusing to take action against the police. In June, a municipal court judge found there was probable cause to charge the officers. Judge Ronald B. Adrine found there was sufficient cause to charge Officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty, as the Huffington Post reported. Further, Officer Frank Garmback could face negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. The judge’s finding notwithstanding, McGinty responded that a grand jury would have to determine whether the officers should be charged.
Meanwhile, last month, McGinty released two reports from Colorado prosecutor S. Lamar Sims and former FBI agent Kimberly Crawford, which concluded the officers acted reasonably. The Rice family questioned the timing of McGinty’s actions with suspicion.
“It sounds like he is sabotaging the case,” Samaria Rice told the Daily News. “He’s not fully giving them the information. The reports are not credible. And I’m appalled that the officers haven’t given their accounts.”
Tanya Goldsby, Tamir Rice’s cousin, created a Change.org petition demanding that McGinty step down from the case. As of November 23, 2015, the petition received over 103,000 signatures. A petition led by Goldsby in July garnered 60,000 signatures, but without any results.
On November 23, 2014, Rice was playing with a toy gun in a gazebo in a park. A call was made to 911 to report that a juvenile had a gun, possibly a fake, yet the dispatcher did not relay that information to the officers. Loehmann, who had previously been fired from the Independence, Ohio police department, shot Tamir within seconds of arriving to the park with Garmbach. The incident was captured on camera, and the actual details stand in contrast to the original police report, which claimed the officers told Rice to drop the weapon three times. Police claim the boy seemed older than he was, which is not uncommon regarding white perceptions and the criminalization of Black children. Police did not attempt medical procedures on the boy for four minutes, and finally an FBI agent in the area attempted to assist. Tamir died of internal bleeding.
The Cleveland Police Department has been cited for systemic problems in its dealing with citizens, creating mistrust particularly with the Black community. And there have been other cases, such as the November 2012 gangland-style killing of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who died in a hail of 137 police bullets following a car chase. The day after Tamir’s funeral, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report on Cleveland, finding city’s police officers are poorly trained, use excessive and unnecessary force, and often violate people’s civil rights. The report also found that police, with their recklessness, endanger the public and other officers, and show a lack of supervision and accountability.
“We saw too many incidents in which officers accidentally shot someone either because they fired their guns accidentally or because they shot the wrong person,” the report said.
Marking the one year mark of Tamir’s passing, family and friends gathered this past weekend for a number of events demanding “Justice for Tamir.”
“We have written him now three times asking for a written response to the detailed concerns laid out in the letters and the flaws in the reports and he has failed to respond,” Samaria Rice’s attorney, Subodh Chandra, said of McGinty, according to WKYC-3. “He has been asked to step aside, he hasn’t. He probably won’t and as a result, the family is concerned that there will be no justice for Tamir Rice.”
Meanwhile, Tamir’s mother will demand a federal civil rights investigation, according to the Daily News, and has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Cleveland and the police officers. She is also considering running for political office someday.