Feds decline charges against officers in Tamir Rice case

The Justice Department declared there was insufficient evidence to bring charges, officially closing the investigation

By John Caniglia

CLEVELAND — The Justice Department on Tuesday officially closed the investigation into Tamir Rice’s shooting and declared that there was insufficient evidence to charge the police officers involved in the boy’s death.

Officials released a summary that explained its decision involving the 12-year-old boy’s death in 2014, stating that not enough evidence exists to bring charges. The federal statute of limitations for obstruction of justice ended Dec. 1.

“The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted willfully,” the report states. “This high legal standard, one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law, requires proof that the officer acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids. It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake, or even exercised bad judgment.

“Although Tamir Rice’s death is tragic, the evidence does not meet these substantial evidentiary requirements.”

The announcement comes a month after attorneys for the Rice family sharply criticized Justice Department officials and demanded to know why they failed to convene a grand jury.

The attorneys wondered why then-Attorney General William Barr refused to listen to career prosecutors who sought the secret panel and why officials failed to notify the boy’s family about the decision.

Then-officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir at Cudell Recreation Center on Nov. 22, 2014, while the boy was playing was an airsoft pellet gun. He died the next day. Loehmann was a rookie officer. He was a passenger in a car driven by a veteran training officer, Frank Garmback.

The two officers responded to a report of someone pointing a gun at people outside the recreation center. The caller told a 911 dispatcher that the gun looked fake, but that information was never relayed to the officers. Garmback was suspended 10 days, but an arbitrator reduced the suspension to five days.

Cleveland settled a federal civil-rights lawsuit with the boy’s family for $6 million. A Cuyahoga County grand jury in 2015 declined to indict the officers.

(c)2020 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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