An expert hired by the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African-American boy shot in Cleveland by a white police officer in November of 2014, concluded that video evidence showed the young boy's hands were in his pockets when he was fatally shot. The report released late Friday contradicts statements from the two officers present that Tamir moved his hand to his waistband when they approached.
The expert reported that Rice didn't have the chance to remove his hands from his jacket pockets as officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback approached. Loehmann opened fire on Tamir within one second of opening the door of the police cruiser, the report said.
Rice had been playing with a airsoft pellet gun in a park outside a local recreational center when a passerby reported seeing someone waving a gun, adding that the firearm was "probably fake." Loehmann and Garmback did not receive that information, however, and took the 12-year-old for a man when they sped up to the boy in the police cruiser. Loehmann, a rookie, opened fire within seconds.
Tamir died in the hospital the next day. The incident soon drew national headlines as another example of the perceived overuse of force by police against African Americans.
In a statement released last week, Loehmann said that Tamir "had not obeyed our command to show us his hands" and moved his hand to his waistband, raising fears that he was reaching for a gun. "This was an active shooter situation," the statement read.
But Jesse Wobrock, the forensic expert hired by the Rice family, disputed that version of events in his report, noting, "the video shows that at no point in his encounter with the police did Tamir Rice reach into his waistband." The location of the bullet holes in Tamir's jacket indicated that the boy had his hands in his pockets and lifted them in a "defensive manner" when the shots were fired, the report concluded.
Separate independent reports commissioned by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty have concluded that officer Loehmann was justified in shooting Tamir, since he feared that his life was in danger.
The Rice family has criticized the prosecutor's office for the length of the investigation. The family has been joined by activists from the Black Lives Matter movement in pushing for a special prosecutor to handle the case.
Wobrock, the specialist tapped by the Rice family for the report, describes himself as an expert in "biomechanics, biomaterials and tissue engineering." He has provided expert witness in a number of other cases, including the shooting death of Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, a 21-year-old man with autism, in Los Angeles in 2008. A jury found in 2011 that the police officer who shot Chaudhry had used excessive force.
Prosecutors are still assembling evidence to submit to a grand jury, who will decide whether Garmback and Loehmann should be face charges.