"We're not going to stop fighting" local group vows justice for Tamir Rice
The U.S. Department of Justice will not prosecute the Cleveland police officers involved in the 2014 fatal shooting of Tamir Rice. After six years, the department announced it has dropped its investigation over Rice’s death citing “insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges against Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.”
Video footage shows the killing of Rice, a Black, 12-year-old boy, happened in daylight on Nov. 22 2014. The child was shot within two seconds of officers arriving on scene. Police were responding to a 911 call, in which a subject was reported holding a gun. The caller said the subject was “probably a juvenile” and the gun was “probably fake.” However, the Associated Press reports the dispatcher failed to relay this part of the message to the officers.
Loehmann fired two bullets into Rice and Garmback said they believed Rice was carrying a gun. Rice was playing with a toy air pellet gun nearby a local park. He died from his injuries in a Cleveland hospital the next morning.
Rice’s death sparked outraged nationwide and came on the heels two other officer-involved killings of Black males: Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Rice’s case played a heavy role in galvanizing the Black Lives Matter movement for police reform.
Justice for Black Lives (JFBL), a Grand Rapids-based group fighting against racism and police brutality, told WGVU they are “frustrated” the Justice Department’s decision.
“There can be video evidence of BIPOC being executed here in the U.S., and it seems to me that even with that video evidence it’s not admissible in court, which is super frustrating because how else are we supposed to protect ourselves,” Danny Santiago, Safety Director and Vice President for JFBL, said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Justice Department said the two officers, who were the sole witnesses, gave consistent testimony stating Officer Loehmann gave Tamir multiple commands to show his hands before shooting, adding that both officers allege they saw Rice reaching for his gun.
"Based on this evidence and the high burdens of the applicable federal laws, career prosecutors have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tamir did not reach for his toy gun; thus, there is insufficient evidence to establish that Officer Loehmann acted unreasonably under the circumstances," the department said.
Santiago said the decision not to prosecute Loehmann and Garmback is an example of “qualified immunity,” that he and his group are working to abolish.
“To have this ruling overall, it’s very defining of what is actually going on here. We are seen as threats and we are being extinguished left and right, whether that’s police brutality or someone showing up downtown hanging from a tree committed by suicide. The criminal justice system has really been a beast this entire time,” Santiago said, adding that holes in the justice can date back to Jim Crow laws.
Despite Rice’s case being closed, Santiago said Justice for Black Lives will continue to pressure decision makers until they believe justice is served.
“We’re not going to stop fighting for Tamir Rice. We’re not going to stop fighting for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor. Any unjust killing that’s happening we’re not going to stop,” he said.