Cleveland officers won’t face charges in shooting death of boy

12-year-old in Cleveland case had toy weapon

Prosecutor Timothy McGinty didn’t recommend charges.
Prosecutor Timothy McGinty didn’t recommend charges.Alex Slitz/New York Times

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 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 said he believes both of the Cleveland officers involved were reasonable in their belief that Rice 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.''

Rice, who was black, was fatally shot by officer Tim Loehmann, a white rookie officer, on Nov. 22, 2014, as the young 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 earlier this month that Rice 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.

McGinty said the death of Rice did not meet the standard of a crime.

In a statement issued not long after the prosecutor's announcement, attorneys for Rice'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,'' the attorneys said. "It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire 'experts' to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation.''

About two dozen protesters gathered Monday in downtown Cleveland and at the Cudell Recreation Center, the westside park where Rice was killed. Some demonstrators held signs demanding ''Justice for Tamir Rice'' and declaring that the boy was ''stolen by law enforcement.''

The US 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 currently conducting its own independent investigation into Rice's death.

Tamir Rice'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 two black men, 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 Monday to again take to the streets, and Mayor Frank Jackson urged calm.


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 and the officers responded to the call as an ''active shooter'' situation, authorities said.

''The suspect had a gun, had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our command to show us his hands. He was facing us,'' Loehmann said in his statement to investigators. He said he then saw Rice's elbow moving upward, and that the weapon was coming up out of his waistband so he fired two shots.

McGinty and other officials from the prosecutor's office said Monday that they believed the officers' story, noting that the toy gun appeared identical to a real weapon, that the 12-year-old looked much older than he was, and that both officers behaved in ways consistent with the Cleveland police's policies for dealing with an ''active shooter'' situation.

McGinty said an enhanced video of the shooting showed that Rice was reaching into his waistband and pulling out the toy weapon.

McGinty said it was likely that Rice "either intended to hand it to the officers or to show them it wasn't a real gun. But there was no way for the officers to know that.''


''Tamir Rice's death was a heartbreaking tragedy and I understand how this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served,'' Governor John Kasich said. ''We all lose, however, if we give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us.'' Kasich is a Republican candidate for president.

US Representative Marcia Fudge, a Democrat, said McGinty's decision to release pieces of evidence throughout the ongoing investigation tainted the process, and that he should have stepped aside and allowed for a special prosecutor.