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For Tamir Rice, A Steep Pathway to Justice

downloadThere is a chorus of voices this week denouncing yet another grand jury’s failure to indict yet another killer of a young person of color. This time, that person is Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old Cleveland resident who was shot and killed by Cuyahoga County police over a year ago. Among the voices decrying this injustice is Goldie Taylor’s. Writing for the Daily Beast, Taylor makes her thoughts clear; her sadness and frustration reflect that of everyone who struggles to understand how justice and accountability can vanish so cleanly.

Some background:

It has been 13 months since Rice was gunned down at a Cudell Recreation Center last winter. He was carrying a toy gun, playing imagery games in the snow Nov. 22, 2014, when someone dialed 911 to report a ‘guy with a gun.’ The dispatcher was advised that the ‘gun’ was likely a toy.

Authorities promised a full and fair investigation. In the end, after months of fact-finding, a grand jury refused to indict Officer Loehmann or his partner Frank Garmback, even though the shooting was initially ruled a homicide.

That “full and fair investigation” ended this week when a grand jury was essentially asked by prosecutors not to indict the officers. They obliged, despite seeing the same evidence that the public has been trying to contend with for the past year:

A surveillance video shows Loehmann, the patrolman, a rookie with a troubled training record, shooting Rice within two seconds of encountering him. The shots rang out even before Garmback could bring the squad car to a full stop. Loehmann, according to investigators, ordered Tamir to drop his weapon—an AirSoft pellet gun that was tucked in his pants—multiple times. At least, that was the claim. But there was simply no time for him to have uttered those words, no time for Tamir to respond, no time for him to understand what was happening to him.

Taylor writes with notable sadness and resentment. She also makes it clear that the history of events like these leaves her unsurprised:

Criminal charges against a police officer, suspected of brutalizing or killing a suspect, are extraordinarily rare—in Ohio and everywhere else in the country. When there is an indictment, the probability of a conviction is even smaller.

Convincing 12 people that a member of law enforcement acted with illegal force in the killing of a suspect is a steep hill to climb. When the officer is white and victim is black, the pathway to justice grows that much steeper.

For Tamir Rice and for his still-grieving family, the pathway to justice is closed.

— Drew Whitcup, Zeteo Contributing Writer

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1 Comment to “For Tamir Rice, A Steep Pathway to Justice”

  1. Daniel D'Arezzo says:

    All of the police killings of unarmed African Americans are troubling, but Tamir’s age makes his murder even more troubling, as well as the video that shows his sister being tackled as she rushes to be with him. To say it is troubling is understatement; it is unbearable. The further injustice of a prosecutor who fails to bring criminal charges against the police adds insult to injury. It seems clear that the officer’s intention was to kill the boy. If the police believed that Tamir was armed and dangerous, why did they pull up beside him? We have all seen the video of the old white man with the rifle, and we hear the police talking him down from a distance, using a bullhorn. That’s what you do with a crazy old coot. Why wasn’t it done like that with Tamir? It is even more confusing if, as Goldie Taylor writes, Tamir was told to “drop his weapon,” which was in his waistband. Such an order required Tamir to draw the weapon, which apparently inspired Officer Loehmann to kill him, although it seems clear that Loehmann planned to kill him from the get-go.

    Whitcup concludes that the pathway to justice for Tamir’s family is closed. But civil suits are pending. Cuyahoga County and the police will be liable if it is shown that the police violated norms and failed to train officers properly. Even the failure to vet Loehmann before hiring him may make the police liable for Tamir’s death. As County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty admitted, mistakes were made. Money cannot salve the wounds of Tamir’s family, but there is some justice in having the county admit culpability and make amends.

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