Prosecutor in Tamir Rice case releases enhanced surveillance images of shooting

© Ken Blaze / USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland-area prosecutor who has been heavily scrutinized since the police murder of a 12-year-old boy a year ago has released hundreds of enhanced camera images of the shooting. The images depict the boy walking toward officers before being shot.

On Saturday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty offered 326 enhanced images from two surveillance cameras stationed outside the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where Tamir Rice was shot dead by Officer Timothy Loehmann on November 22 last year.

The surveillance stills released by McGinty are accompanied by text describing the action. The frames show events before, during and after the incident.

Rice is shown with the plastic gun, an Airsoft replica, tucked in his waistband when the police cruiser approaches him near a gazebo at the recreation center. As the cruiser passes Rice, he moves his right arm to his waist. In the next frame, Rice walks toward the cruiser, moving his right arm to his waist. Then the cruiser's door opens.

Rice can be seen lifting his right arm and shoulder as he approaches the cruiser from the passenger side. Officer Loehmann jumps from the passenger seat, shooting the boy in the next frame.

The surveillance images were enhanced by Grant Fredericks of Forensic Video Solutions, according to Fredericks was identified as a contract instructor of video sciences at the FBI National Academy. He is "one of the most experienced video experts in North America," the company's website says.

On November 22, 2014, the Cleveland Police Department received reports concerning a male with a gun at a playground. A cruiser with Officers Loehmann and Frank Garmback arrived on the scene shortly after. Police said Loehmann engaged when Rice reached into his waistband, and that officers did not realize that he was carrying a toy weapon. Loehmann fired two shots at Rice, which struck him in the abdomen. Police did not immediately administer first aid to the boy, who died from his wounds in hospital the following day.

A grand jury is currently determining whether Loehmann, who is white, used reasonable force in shooting Rice, who was black and perceived by police as being “a serious threat.” Rice's Airsoft replica gun lacked the orange safety coloring to show that it was not in fact real. Though a 911 caller speculated that Rice's gun may not be real, that information was not passed on to responding officers.

On Monday, Tamir's mother Samaria Rice is expected to testify before the grand jury.

Several experts asked by McGinty's office to officially comment on the legality of the shooting have said the officer used justifiable force in shooting Rice.

"It is simply obvious that the officers had a reasonable belief that Rice was armed," said W. Ken Katsaris, a retired Florida police officer, in an analysis released by McGinty's office this month.

Prior to the grand jury proceedings, McGinty hired two police use-of-force experts to write reports on Rice's killing. Both reports found police acted reasonably during the encounter.

Two independent experts have countered, saying the shooting was unjustified, according to the New York Times.

“The officers engaged in reckless tactical decision making, they unreasonably placed themselves in harm’s way, and Officer Loehmann’s use of deadly force was excessive, objectively unreasonable and inconsistent with generally accepted police practices,” wrote Jeffrey J. Noble, a former deputy police chief in Irvine, California.

Facing rising pressure to remove himself from the case, McGinty has questioned the motive of the Rice family's attorneys. The boy’s family have accused the prosecutor of soliciting expert reports to "make opinion early to soften the blow" if and when the grand jury does not indict the officers.

“What he should be doing, as in any other grand jury, he should be looking to answer a simple question: ‘Is there probable cause that a crime has occurred?’ That’s it,” Rice family attorney Walter Madison told RT last month.

Last week, amid demonstrations marking the anniversary of Rice's death, Madison said he was confident McGinty will not convince the grand jury to charge the officers involved.

“Well, it's real simple. It's an example of how closely prosecutors and police officers work everyday. They have this symbiotic relationship, whereby it has fostered over the years a reluctance, an unwillingness to hold them responsible and accountable when they commit crimes as well. And it's nothing short of, other than an evil misuse of justice,” Madison told RT.

Rice’s death came only two days after a grand jury in St. Louis County decided not to indict Darren Wilson, a former officer with the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri, over an August 2014 incident in which he fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.