Dec 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DOJ declines to charge officers in 2014 fatal shooting of Tamir Rice

A child holds a sign that says, "I am Tamir Rice."

People gather to protest against the police killing of Tamir Rice. Photo: Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Department of Justice said on Tuesday it would not bring charges against two officers in 2014 fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and that it was closing its federal investigation into the shooting.

Why it matters: The killing of Rice triggered large protests against police brutality and galvanized support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Reacting to Tuesday's announcement, Rice's family lawyer said the Justice Department’s “process was tainted," per AP.

Driving the news: The department concluded that the quality of a video of the shooting was too poor for prosecutors to establish what occurred and that the cumulative evidence was not enough to support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.

  • The department said prosecutors were unable to determine whether Rice was or was not reaching for the pellet gun prior to being shot because his hands are not visible in the video.
  • To bring federal civil rights charges, the department would have to prove that the officers' actions willfully broke the law rather than being the result of a mistake, negligence or bad judgment, per AP.

Context: Tamir was playing with a pellet gun near a recreation center in Cleveland on Nov. 22, 2014, when he was shot and killed by officer Timothy Loehmann not long after Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback, arrived at the scene.

  • The officers were called to the recreation center after a person called 911 to report that a “guy” was pointing a gun at people, though the caller told a 911 dispatcher that it was probably a juvenile and the gun might be “fake."
  • The two officers told authorities soon after the shooting that Rice was reaching for the pellet gun before being shot and was given multiple commands to show his hands.

Subodh Chandra, an attorney for Rice's family said in statement that it is "beyond comprehension that the Department couldn’t recognize that an officer who claims he shouted commands when the patrol car’s window was closed and it was a winter day is lying," per AP.

  • “The Rice family has been cheated of a fair process yet again,” he added.
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