CLEVELAND, OH — The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department in Ohio on Wednesday handed its investigation into the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice to prosecutors.
“The sheriff’s office received the file on February 13th, and has performed an extensive, thorough and unbiased investigation. It is now up to the prosecutor to determine how next to proceed,” the department said in a statement.
Tamir was holding a fake gun when a Cleveland police officer shot him November 22. The boy died a day later.
He had been playing in a park near his home.
A witness called 911, reporting that there was “a guy with a pistol,” adding that the weapon was “probably” fake.
That information — that the gun the caller saw was probably not real and that the person holding it appeared to be a juvenile — was not conveyed to the officers who responded, according to recordings that law enforcement released.
Cleveland Officer Timothy Loehmann fired the fatal shots at Tamir within two seconds of arriving outside the recreation center, where the sixth-grader was playing with the pellet gun.
The killing evoked international headlines and stoked outrage across the United States as the nation reeled from police-involved shootings of unarmed African-American men. Tamir Rice was black.
His mother told CNN, “They never even gave him a chance.”
Wrongful death lawsuit
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said that four minutes after Tamir was shot, a detective and FBI agent were on the scene. The FBI agent began first aid and paramedics arrived three minutes later.
In March, the city of Cleveland responded to a wrongful death suit that Tamir’s family filed by saying that the boy’s death was the fault of one person: him.
In the 41-page response, the city said that Tamir’s injuries “were directly and proximately caused by the failure of Plaintiffs’ decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
The city also claimed it was was entitled to all “full and qualified” immunities under state and federal law.
Cleveland’s mayor later apologized for the city’s “poor use of words and our insensitivity” in its response to the filing and said it would be reworded.
Justice Department investigation
In December, the U.S. Justice Department released the results of a two-year investigation that found Cleveland officers use guns, Tasers, pepper spray and their fists excessively, unnecessarily or in retaliation.
Also in December, Loehmann’s previous employer, the Independence Police Department in a Cleveland suburb, said it had numerous complaints about Loehmann, including that he was “distracted and weepy” and “emotionally immature” and had demonstrated “a pattern of lack of maturity, indiscretion and not following instructions.”
He showed “dangerous loss of composure during live range training” and an “inability to manage personal stress,” the department said.
By Dana Ford