Prosecutors in Cleveland released statements on Tuesday from the two police officers involved in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November. These statements are the first insights released to the public about the officers’ perspective on the shooting, which sparked national outrage last year during an already heated debate over incidents of police brutality in communities of color.
Tamir Rice was fatally shot by Timothy Loehmann, a white rookie police officer, outside a Cleveland recreation center just seconds after he and his partner Frank Garmback had approached Rice in their cruiser. Rice had been holding an airsoft pellet gun. Both officers’ statements said the suspect appeared to be over 18 years old and that they believed the gun he held to be authentic.
“The male was pulling it from the right front area of his waistband. I thought the gun was real,” Garmback’s statement read.
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Loehmann’s statement described the threat to himself and his partner as “real and active” and said he and Garmback had been yelling “show me your hands” at Rice before shooting.
“We are taught to get behind the cruiser for cover. We are taught shoot and move. You do not want to be a sitting target. 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. This was an active shooter situation,” Loehmann’s statement read.
Prosecutors are presenting evidence to a grand jury, which will decide whether Loehmann and Garmback will be charged. Activists and Rice’s mother have been outspoken against Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, and have called on him to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take over.
Three current and former law enforcement officials McGinty hired said the officers’ shooting was “objectively reasonable” considering the circumstances, writing that the video footage of the shooting appeared to show the suspect’s hand move toward his waistband, giving Loehmann reason to believe he was reaching for a gun.