UPDATE: 4:10 p.m. EST -- A grand jury's decision not to indict the Cleveland officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year drew widespread reaction from activists and civil rights leaders Monday. From the NAACP, which called the decision a "miscarriage of justice, to the Rev. Al Sharpton, who noted the decision was a blow for the boy's family during the holiday season, one of the most high-profile incidents of black deaths in the U.S. over the last year again struck a nerve nationwide.
“We are appalled that no indictment was returned in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, though we are not surprised given the behavior and tone displayed by prosecutor Tim McGinty['s office] all year," Sharpton, leader of the civil rights group National Action Network, said in a statment released Monday.
While the prosecutor & grand jury have spoken, fundamental?s go unanswered. Our prayers & fight 4 #TamirRice & so many others continue.
— Cornell Brooks (@CornellWBrooks) December 28, 2015
Members of Black Lives Matter, the social justice movement against police brutality in community of color, also spoke out after the decision. Deray McKesson, a prominent voice in the movement, raised questions Monday about the fairness of the grand jury process and the impartiality of the local prosecutor's office. The lack of indictments in officer-involved deaths in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, last year, sparked civil unrest in those cities and around the country.
The prosecutor today reminded us that he doubles as the defense attorney for the police. #TamirRice
— deray mckesson (@deray) December 28, 2015
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) December 28, 2015
As news spread about Monday's decision, state and local officials called for peaceful protests and pledged to work with residents to strengthen community-police relations. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson offered an apology to Samaria Rice, the 12-year-old boy's mother, in a news conference Monday afternoon. Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said leaders were "making sure things get better in this city," according to media reports.
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) December 28, 2015
Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the Ohio police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November of 2014, will not face criminal charges, a Cleveland prosecutor announced Monday. Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said a grand jury voted against indicting Loehmann, a white rookie Cleveland officer who shot Rice while the boy carried a plastic pellet gun, on charges related to the incident. Garmback, who drove a police cruiser toward the boy just before the shooting, was also cleared of wrongdoing.
Although video surveillance taken of the city park where Rice was shot raised questions of whether Loehmann's use of force was reasonable, McGinty said grand jurors were persuaded by expert testimony that justified the Nov. 22, 2014, shooting on the grounds that the officer feared for his life. At least two independent law enforcement experts found Loehmann's actions were justified, according to reports released in October.
Multiple investigations, expert testimony and grand jury meetings took place over the 400 days since the shooting, McGinty explained in a news conference Monday afternoon. Findings in the case suggest Loehmann's action was "a perfect storm of human error," the prosecutor said.
The Rice shooting, one of the most high-profile incidents of black deaths in the U.S. over the past year, helped spark nationwide protests over police use of force, including those led by Black Lives Matter, a social justice movement against police brutality in communities of color. Although video footage of Rice's shooting helped push the case into the national spotlight, McGinty downplayed its influence over the course of the investigation.
"The original grainy video initially showed on TV was only a small part of this investigation — a very important part, but a small part," the prosecutor said. "There have been lessons learned already [from the Rice case]. That is the plus side in this tragic event. It should never happen again."
McGinty said he informed Samaria Rice, the boy's mother, of the grand jury's decision just before the announcement, although an attorney for the family said they had not received notice ahead of the afternoon press conference. After the announcement, a Rice family attorney accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grant jury process to orchestrate a [grand jury] vote against indictment," according to a statement.
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) December 28, 2015
Attorney for Tamir Rice's mother says they've been told nothing about the announcement due at 2pm on grand jury inquiry into Tamir's death
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) December 28, 2015
Grand jury proceedings are typically secret but, seemingly at the urging of activists, McGinty released expert reports and investigative documents to the media and the public last summer. But some of the materials, including the reports from independent law enforcement experts supporting Loehmann’s actions, sparked more anger within the community 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 provided 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.