(CLEVELAND) — An Ohio grand jury has declined to indict two police officers in the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by a Cleveland police officer last year, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said on Monday.
McGinty said he also recommended that no charges be filed.
The grand jury was not notified of the prosecutor’s recommendation before making its final decision, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Tamir was holding a toy gun when he was shot by officer Timothy Loehmann at a Cleveland playground in November 2014. The grand jury was hearing evidence to determine if any charges would be brought against Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback.
McGinty said that the law gives the benefit of the doubt to officers who must make “split second” decisions when they believe their lives are in danger.
Loehmann “had reason to fear for his life,” McGinty said, citing video of the shooting that he said was “indisputable” that Tamir was reaching for his gun as the police car approached and Loehmann exited.
McGinty said it would be unreasonable for the law to require the officers to wait to determine if the gun Tamir had was real.
“It became clear” that the officers’ actions were not criminal, McGinty told reporters.
McGinty called Tamir’s death a “tragedy” but not a crime. He said charges against the officers wouldn’t bring justice for Tamir.
Attorneys for the Rice family released a statement following the grand jury announcement.
“Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome-but not surprised,” attorneys said.
“It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment,” the attorneys said. “Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified.”
“Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination,” the attorneys said. “Even though it is black letter law that taking the stand waives the Fifth Amendment right to be silent, the prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse. This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects.”
The family’s attorneys said they are renewing their request that the Department of Justice “step in to conduct a real investigation into this tragic shooting.”
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