The toy gun 12-year-old Tamir Rice was holding when he was shot dead by a Cleveland police officer in November 2014 was “impossible” to distinguish from a real weapon, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty told reporters Monday. Rice had been carrying an airsoft rifle with its orange tip removed when he was fatally shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann. McGinty said Rice's gun was nearly identical to an actual one, and demonstrated during a news conference how similar it appeared when placed alongside a real firearm.
The prosecutor announced Monday that neither officer involved in the shooting death of Rice would be indicted. A grand jury voted against indicting Loehmann, and Frank Garmback — who drove the police cruiser toward Rice before he was shot — was also cleared of wrongdoing, McGinty said.
McGinty called Loehmann’s action “a perfect storm of human error,” and said if Rice’s toy gun had “screamed toy,” such a tragedy might never have occurred. McGinty said Loehmann’s actions — in the 2 seconds before opening fire on Rice — were based on the belief that the weapon was real, and that the boy looked older than 12. Dispatchers for 911 had also not told the officers the gun was thought to be fake by the time they arrived at the scene. McGinty urged that toy gun manufacturers stop making their products look so similar to real guns, and said the shooting of a child must “never happen again,” CNN reported.
Prosecutor shows Tamir Rice's toy gun next to real gun, says it's "impossible to say which one is real." pic.twitter.com/sjiNLoQxRS
— Mike Hayes (@michaelhayes) December 28, 2015
Lawmakers and parents alike have recently grown anxious to put a halt to children obtaining toy guns that too closely resemble the real weapons. In 2015, bills on toy guns surfaced in at least seven states, according to USA Today. In November, Boston prohibited replica handguns in public and authorized police to confiscate them. Orlando’s Disney World also announced this month it would start banning toy guns from the theme park grounds. At the time of Rice's shooting, Ohio had no restrictions on the sales of airsoft guns, cleveland.com reported, although legislation has since been brought to the Ohio House.
Advocacy groups such as the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin have launched campaigns and petitions encouraging parents not to buy toy guns at all, and the Boston nonprofit World Against Toys Causing Harm, a Boston nonprofit, recently named the G.D. Jiefeng Toys foam dart gun one of the 10 worst toys for 2015.
Airsoft guns, such as the one Rice held, have grown in popularity over the past decade, as recreational users and paintball game fans began seeking more realistic-looking weapons, one gun manufacturer said. Chip Hunnicutt, marketing manager for the New York-based airsoft gun manufacturer Crossman, told cleveland.com the guns are not designed to kill or severely injure, but are recreational products used by "young people who like to play in their backyards."
— Jeffrey Hawkins (@Learntobesafe) December 28, 2015
— Scott Taylor (@ScottTaylorTV) December 28, 2015