Two outside reports say police shooting of 12 year old with pellet gun 'justified'
Two independent reports commissioned by the prosecutor in the Tamir Rice shooting case have concluded that officers who responded to reports of a young man with a gun werer "justified" in using deadly force.
It later emerged that the Cleveland 12 year old was brandishing a pellet gun.
The Ohio prosecutor gathering evidence in the fatal police shooting of Tamir Rice released two reports Saturday that conclude the officer was justified in shooting the 12-year-old.
The separate reports — conducted by a retired FBI agent and by a prosecutor in Denver — were released by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. They found that Officer Timothy Loehmann acted reasonably under the law when he shot Rice on Nov. 22. Police say Rice was holding a pellet gun that resembled a handgun.
A grand jury will determine whether Loehmann faces criminal charges in Rice's death.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said he released the reports — commissioned by his office — in the interest of transparency.
"We are not reaching any conclusions from these reports," McGinty said in a statement. "The gathering of evidence continues and the grand jury will evaluate it all."
Predictably, the family of Mr. Rice is unmoved:
Subodh Chandra, a lawyer for Rice's family, criticized the reports as part of what he called a "whitewash."
"These supposed "experts" — all pro-police — dodge the simple fact that the officers rushed Tamir and shot him immediately without assessing the situation in the least," Chandra said in a statement. "Reasonable jurors could find that conduct unreasonable."
Tamir was shot after he allegedly refused orders to put his hands up and reached for his waistband, police have said.
The report from retired FBI special agent Kimberly A. Crawford said while responding to a report of a person with a gun, Loehmann had to make a "split-second" decision to use deadly force.
"Loehmann's attention would be focused on Rice's hands as they moved towards his waist band and lifted his jacket. Unquestionably, the actions of Rice could reasonably be perceived as a serious threat to Officer Loehmann," Crawford wrote.
"It is my conclusion that Officer Loehmann's use of deadly force falls within the realm of reasonableness under the dictates of the Fourth Amendment," Crawford wrote.
The other report — from S. Lamar Sims, senior chief deputy district attorney in Denver — said the video shows Loehmann exiting the car rapidly and moving toward cover, which suggests he felt there was an imminent threat.
"The officers did not create the violent situation — they were responding to a situation fraught with the potential for violence to citizens," Sims wrote in his report.
He noted that a detective on the scene initially thought the pellet gun was a Colt 1911 handgun, and was surprised when he learned it was an airsoft pellet gun.
The "statre of mind" of the officers is the determining factor in cases like this. All things being equal, hesitation by the officers responding to reports of a man with a gun could of resulted in the death of bystanders or their own. The key is that Rice created the "violent situation" all on his own. He didn't need police to create anything. All they were doing was responding.
But all things are not equal in this case, which is why an indictment will probably be forthcoming. The prosecutor is playing the angles rather than standing behind the officers. And the next close call like this will probably end up with someone besides a perpetrator - almost certainly a law enforcement officer - getting killed or injured.