Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice is angry with the Department of Justice, more specifically, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who denied a request to reopen Tamir Rice’s case.
“As a Black woman, you are a big disappointment, and you sit me down in your office and tell me you had to sit your own son down, lady, I don’t want to hear all of that, do you understand how my life has changed completely and how it’s been destroyed because there’s no accountability in this country?” Samaria Rice described of her conversation with Clarke.
On Nov. 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by now-former Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann within two seconds after Loehmann pulled up to a park gazebo where Tamir was sitting on a bench.
Loehmann and fellow officer Frank Garmback, who was driving the police cruiser, were responding to a 911 call about Rice playing with a realistic-looking toy gun in the park. Neither local nor federal authorities found sufficient evidence to press criminal charges against the officers involved.
In December 2020, President Trump’s Justice Department officially closed its investigation into Tamir Rice’s case, citing “insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges” against Loehmann and Garmback.
Last year, Samaria Rice’s attorneys sent a letter signed by several legal scholars to the DOJ urging the agency to reopen the case. Rice met with DOJ officials in October and again in December, where she shared the pains associated with policing in Black communities.
On Jan. 28, 2022, Clarke said in a letter, the DOJ could not prove Tamir Rice’s civil rights were violated citing section 242 of the federal civil rights law which read: “The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, an officer acting under color of law, willfully deprived Tamir Rice of a rice protected by the constitution.”
Clarke said career prosecutors could not meet the standard of proof that Loehmann acted with bad purpose when he fired the fatal shot killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
“She tells me she doesn’t know what Timothy Loehmann was thinking in his mind that day, but I’m going to tell you this, willful intent means the gun was already sitting on your lap Timothy Loehmann because there’s no way it was sitting in your holster, you have to unclip it and do all of that and that’s probably about a second right there, my son was shot in less than a second,” Samaria Rice said after claiming President Biden’s Justice Department failed her.
Legal analyst, Laura McNeal, J.D., Ph.D., says the legal standard to prove a person’s civil rights were violated by police is too high at the federal level.
In Tamir Rice’s case, McNeal said, the Justice Department would have to prove the officers intentionally took Tamir Rice’s life, but she added details provided to the officers by the 911 dispatcher factored into their response.
According to the DOJ’s final report from December 2020, the 911 call regarding Tamir Rice was flagged as a “Code 1” or a high priority call and “the dispatcher did not relay that the individual might be a juvenile or that the gun might be fake.
The officers believed they were responding to a playground where a grown man was brandishing a real gun at individuals, presumably including children.”
McNeal says, the Justice Department had to consider these additional details and still prove the officers had willful intent to deny Tamir his constitutional rights. McNeal suggested Samaria would have a better chance pursuing justice at the state level because the standard of proof is not as high compared to the federal level.
Rice is considering her next steps, but, more immediately, Rice would like to speak with Clarke for more clarification why she feels the DOJ feels it cannot prove willful intent.
“I want her to be able to give me some details on why she can’t challenge the statute 242. Can you tell me why instead of you telling me, it’s going to be hard to do, then how don’t you know if you don’t challenge it. I don’t understand what you’re doing,” Rice said.
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