Ahead of a vote by an Ohio grand jury impaneled in the death of Tamir Rice, his family and their lawyers said they are prepared to hear that the white police officer who fatally shot the black 12-year-old carrying a pellet gun will not face criminal charges. The grand jury meeting in Cleveland over Rice’s case, one of the most high-profile incidents of black deaths in the U.S. over the last two years, is expected to make a decision any day now, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Timothy Loehmann, who was a rookie officer when he shot Rice in a brief encounter captured on surveillance video Nov. 22, 2014, and patrolman Frank Garmback, who drove a police cruiser just feet away from the boy as he played at a local park, have argued that they feared Rice would use the plastic replica gun on them. After multiple investigations, expert testimonies that justified and condemned the shooting and grand jury meetings over the last 400 days, Rice’s family has lost hope in the fairness of the criminal justice process, their lawyers say.
— Healthy Black Men (@BlkMenUSA) December 27, 2015
“This is apparently how long it takes to engineer denying justice to a family when the video of the incident clearly illustrates probable cause to charge the officer,” Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland attorney for the Rice family, told the AP. The Cuyahoga County sheriff’s office, the agency that led the investigative process, turned over its findings in the shooting to county prosecutor Tim McGinty in June.
Joe Frolik, a spokesman for McGinty, has previously attributed the long investigation to the prosecutor’s office's interest in being “careful and thorough.” Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret but, seemingly at the urging of activists, McGinty released expert reports and investigative documents to the media and the public. But some of the materials, including two reports from independent law enforcement experts that support Loehmann’s actions, have enflamed anger over the grand jury process.
In June, activists successfully petitioned an Ohio judge to review the case. The judge ruled that video evidence of the shooting provides probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder and Garmback with reckless homicide, according to media reports. But criminal charges should be left up to prosecutors and the grand jury, he said.