'Tragedy, not crime' - Grand jury declines to indict officer in fatal shooting of 12yo Tamir Rice
The officer who shot Rice had a “mistaken, yet reasonable belief” he would be shot when Rice pulled the replica gun from his waistband, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty announced to the press on Monday.
The key evidence in the decision was a recently enhanced video recording, by a laboratory often used by the FBI, showing indisputably that Rice was drawing the toy gun from his waistband as the police approached.
McGinty called the shooting a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications” but said that the evidence did not point to criminal misconduct by police.
Rice’s mother has been informed of the decision, McGinty said, in a “tough conversation” prior to the press conference.
“The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy,” McGinty said, but was not a crime under the law. He did not rule out a different outcome of the civil process, however. “The civil justice system may yet provide the Rice family the justice they deserve.”
Lessons have been learned from the tragedy, McGinty said. Cleveland has bought body cameras for the police, and equipped squad cars with dashboard cameras using $1 million in funds seized through asset forfeitures. Cleveland has also reached a consent agreement with the Department of Justice that will dramatically change how the city hires, trains and manages police.
“I call for the leaders of our community to respect the process,” McGinty urged, and conduct themselves “in a peaceful and lawful manner” following the announcement.
“This is a violent society, with all these guns,” McGinty added at the end, pointing out that two police officers have been shot over the past several days.
In a statement issued shortly after McGinty’s announcement, attorneys for the Rice family accused the prosecutor of “abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment,” and giving special treatment to the officers involved. The attorneys urged all who wished to protest against the decision to do so “peacefully and democratically” and renewed their request for the Department of Justice to “conduct a real investigation” into Tamir's death.
McGinty said his office would release the full text of the statement and the report later in the day, on their website.
The prosecutor was followed by a presentation from Matthew Meyer, Public Corruption Unit supervisor, who laid out the video, audio and tangible evidence in the case. One of the exhibits he showed was the replica gun Tamir Rice was using. The orange safety tip had been removed from the barrel, so it was indistinguishable from a real gun.
Officers who responded to the call followed active shooter procedures adopted after the Columbine school shooting, Meyer said, because Rice was outside a recreation center that was filled with people, and the 911 call that described the boy said he was “scaring the sh-- out of everybody” with a gun.
Though the caller had told the 911 operator that the suspect may be a juvenile, and the gun might be fake, that information was never relayed to the officers. Neither of the officers who drove up to Rice in the gazebo outside the rec center knew that he was 12, or that he had a toy weapon, Meyer said.