‘Hands may kill’: Statements released from cops who killed Tamir Rice

© Cleveland Police Department
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office released statements from the two white Cleveland police officers involved in the 2014 shooting death of African-American child Tamir Rice, who they thought had a gun but was holding only a toy.

The statements released on Tuesday showed for the first time what the police officers were thinking and believed on the day of the shooting. Meanwhile, a grand jury hearing is underway to decide whether to indict the police officers for Rice’s death.

We received a broadcast of a ‘male waiving a gun and pointing at people’ at the Cudell Recreation center. The description was a Black Male, camouflage hat, grey jacket, and black sleeves at or near the swing set. We responded to a Code 1,” wrote police officer Timothy Loehmann in describing the events of Saturday, November 22, 2014.

The call led the two officers to drive to the Cudell Recreation Center, where Loehmann shot Rice, whom he alleges had reached into his waistband for what turned out to be a toy weapon. Rice’s Airsoft replica gun lacked the orange safety coloring to show that it was not, in fact, real. Loehmann fired two shots at Rice, striking him in the abdomen. Police did not immediately administer first aid to the boy, who died from his wounds in a hospital the following day.

Later in his statement, Loehmann describes 12-year-old Rice as a “male who appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds.”

We feared he was going to run into the Recreation Center. As the car was approaching, the suspect turned towards our car. Officer [Frank] Garmback attempts to stop the car as the male turned towards car,” he wrote. “As car is slid (sic), I started to open the door and yelled continuously ‘show me your hands’ as loud as I could. Officer Garmback was also yelling ‘show me your hands.’”

“I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time. I was fixed on his waistband and hand area. I was trained to keep my eyes on his hands because ‘hands may kill.’”

Additionally, Loehmann wrote, “You do not want to be a sitting target. The suspect had a gun, had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our command to show us his hands. He was facing us. This was an active shooter situation.”

“I had very little time as I exited the vehicle. We are trained to get out of the cruiser because ‘the cruiser is a coffin.’ I observed the suspect pulling the gun out of the waistband with his elbow coming up. Officer Gamback and I were still yelling ‘show me your hands.’ With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out…I fired two shots,” wrote Loehmann.

The two statements from Loehmann and Garmback corroborate each other. Garmback wrote, “I thought the male was an adult. Over 18 years old,” and specifically mentioned that Rice had a gun.

“I first saw the gun that the male had a gun about the time Ptl. Loehmann exited the cruiser. The male was pulling it from the right front area of his waistband. I thought the gun was real,” Garmback wrote.

Investigators from the sheriff’s department received the signed statements from the officers as part of their investigation into the shooting before turning them over to the prosecutor’s office. A grand jury began hearing evidence about five weeks ago to determine whether the police officers used reasonable force in shooting Rice or, if not, whether to indict them.

“The investigation is continuing and ultimately the Grand Jury will make its decision based on all the evidence,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, according to CBS Cleveland 19.

On Saturday, prosecutors released a frame-by-frame analysis of surveillance camera footage, first made public a year ago, that shows the police encounter with Rice. The additional images didn’t appear to contain any new or substantive information and do not show that Rice, as police officials have maintained, was reaching into his waistband for the pellet gun when Loehmann shot him less than two seconds after getting out of the car, according to the Associated Press.

Attorneys for the boy’s family have asked the prosecutor to allow their use-of-force experts to testify before the grand jury. This request followed the release of two reports by experts hired by prosecutors concluding the shooting was justified because the officers had no way of knowing the gun wasn’t a real firearm.

The same attorneys wrote to McGinty on November 27 reiterating their demand that he step aside to allow a special prosecutor to take over the case. They called his presentation to the grand jury “biased” and “improper” after the expert reports calling the shooting justified were released.

Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, gave testimony before the grand jury on Monday. Officers Loehmann and Garmback, meanwhile, are on transitional duty.