Judge finds probable cause to charge two Cleveland cops in Tamir Rice's death

The ruling can't force prosecutors to bring charges, but could signal hope for activists demanding accountability

By Mark Gillispie
Published June 11, 2015 9:32PM (EDT)
  (AP/Tony Dejak)
(AP/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Enough evidence exists to charge two police officers in the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun outside a recreation center, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The judge's ruling is symbolic because he cannot compel prosecutors to charge the officers in the death of Tamir Rice last November. But Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine ruled there's probable cause to charge rookie officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide or dereliction of duty. And he ruled there's evidence to charge Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback, with reckless homicide or dereliction of duty.

"This court reaches its conclusions consistent with the facts in evidence and the standard of proof that applies at this time," the judge wrote.

The judge made his ruling after a group of activists submitted affidavits asking the court to charge the officers.

Footage from a surveillance camera shows Tamir being shot by Loehmann within two seconds of a police cruiser, driven by Garmback, skidding to a stop near the boy. The officers had responded to a 911 call about a man pointing and waving a gun at a playground next to the recreation center. Footage from the surveillance camera shows Tamir reaching for the gun, which was a realistic-looking toy, from his waistband when Loehmann shot him once in the abdomen.

Police officials have said Loehmann ordered Tamir three times to put his hands up.

The shooting of Tamir, who was black, by a white officer raised questions about how police treat blacks and spurred protests around the city.

The city released the surveillance video showing the shooting of Tamir, who was carrying an airsoft gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets.

Much of the footage showed what appeared to be a bored kid alone in a park on an unseasonably warm November afternoon. Tamir was seen pacing, occasionally extending his right arm with what appeared to be a gun in his hand, talking on a cellphone and sitting at a picnic table with his head resting on his arms.

But the gun wasn't real - it can be bought at sporting goods stores for less than $20. Tamir's was lacking the bright orange tip that is usually put on such weapons to indicate they're not real guns.

Tamir's family said it had seen the video of his shooting.

"It is our belief that this situation could have been avoided and that Tamir should still be here with us," the family said shortly after the shooting in a statement released by its attorneys. "The video shows one thing distinctly: the police officers reacted quickly."

Mark Gillispie

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Cleveland Cleveland Police Justice Race Tamir Rice