Tamir Rice was summarily executed by Cleveland, Ohio police on November 22, 2014 at 3:30pm for allegedly playing with a toy gun at the Cudell Recreation Center across the street from his home. Tamir, 12 years old, would only survive 2 seconds of interaction with Cleveland police. Cleveland police also refused to allow Tamir’s 14 year-old sister to provide comfort and possibly life-saving intervention to her brother. She was manhandled, handcuffed and forced to sit in the back of the same patrol car that was used in the execution of her brother. Her mother, Samaria, received similar treatment when she tried to comfort and save the life of her child. Cleveland police, in their treatment of the Rice family, ushered in a new putrid standard and definition of barbarism.
This case has received national and international attention because it exposes the depraved nature of police brutality in occupied African-American communities. It has also exposed the total lack of accountability and disrespect for law that is evident when police kill unarmed African children and adults. It was the prolonged investigation and the insensitivity of the Prosecutor that prevented the family from burying Tamir for six months because “they did not want to bury him until the official probe was complete, in case authorities needed to conduct another medical examination.”
Numerous demonstrations have occurred across the country demanding prosecution of the officers who killed Tamir. However, Ohio prosecutors have stubbornly refused to charge the two police officers with Tamir’s homicide. Civil and human rights groups have highlighted the Tamir Rice murder in much the same way that the early civil rights movement highlighted the gruesome torture and murder of Emmitt Till in 1955 by white vigilantes cum police. Since November, the Rice family and public have waited patiently to receive the official report of investigation from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office.
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Fed up with foot dragging and bureaucratic delays 6 months after Tamirs death, Samaria Rice used an obscure Ohio law that allowed petitioners to directly file criminal charges against the officers. Surprisingly, Cleveland municipal Judge Ronald Adrine found “probably cause to charge Officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot the boy, with “murder, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, involuntary manslaughter and dereliction of duty,” and his partner, Frank Garmback, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.” Problem with this ruling is that it does not carry any legal authority.
The Judge has described his ruling as “advisory in nature,” and noted that he does not have the authority to place the officers under arrest or charge them with murder. Unfortunately, the power to arrest and charge these officers resides with the same City Prosecutor, Timothy McGinty that has dragged his feet and displayed utter disregard for bringing this case to justice.
Judge Adrine noted in his ten-page ruling that the video of Tamir’s murder was “notorious and hard to watch,” and said he’s “still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly.” Adrine observed that despite Officer Loehmann’s claim that he ordered Tamir to put his hands up three times, the police car “is still in the process of stopping when Rice is shot.” Further, it is noted that eight minutes elapse after the shooting before anyone “checks on the boy as he lies wounded on the ground.”One interesting point that comes out of the investigation is that no one can verify Officer Loehmann’s claim that he ordered Tamir to place his hands up.
With wanton disregard for seeking justice in this case, Prosecutor McGinty has not backed down. Six months after Tamir’s death, with a court ruling in hand, the prosecutor could have decided to dispense with grand jury proceedings – clearly under his discretion. Judge Adrine noted this when he stated that taking the Rice case to a grand jury “is completely within the discretion of the City’s prosecuting attorney.” However, McGinty insists on empaneling a grand jury that he assumes will do his bidding. Therefore, it’s clear that the foot dragging, is not normal bureaucratic lethargy but rather part of a larger strategy to deny justice in this case. In the most unmistakably transparent manner possible, the city prosecutor has shown his utter contempt towards the Rice family and deep animus in this case.
According to the New York Times, Prosecutor McGinty, with complete disregard for Judge Adrine’s option stated: “This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury.”
Why the delay in releasing this report? The investigation fails to reveal any bombshells or factual revelations that would warrant nearly a year’s delay in releasing the information to the public and the Rice family. Most of the information contained in the investigation was readily available either through interviews, medical reports or video. Is the delay due to arrogance born of privilege and power or simply defiance of a social movement that places demands upon an intransigent political system?
Regardless, of why the Cleveland Prosecutor’s Office decided to withhold the report, it is out now. Inadvertently, the investigation provides fresh insight into unbridled power and the callousness of a hostile prosecutor’s office and its ability to thwart all available channels of justice to communities victimized by state power. The Cleveland Prosecutor’s Office, like the US criminal justice system can be characterized as a system dedicated to demeaning and minimizing Black life from cradle to grave. However, despite the delay in releasing the investigation, the report sheds light, through interviews with teachers and others involved in Tamir’s life, about the incredible potential of this child whose life was inhumanly shattered before his potential was realized. One of the most heartbreaking accounts of Tamir’s last moments, after police brutalized, arrested, and refused to allow his mother and sister to provide comfort or life-saving medical intervention is captured in an article entitled: “The Final Hours of Tamir Rice’s Life”:
“After he was shot once in the gut about a second after a rookie officer confronted him, he lay on the ground barely breathing. He reached up for the hand of a stranger – an FBI agent who had come to offer first aid – as his sister sat screaming in anguish in the back of a police car just feet away. He was still alive when city paramedics arrived, but the life had begun to slip away.”
What is abundantly clear is that the only chance for justice in the Tamir Rice case is for the progressive community and the Black Lives Matter movement to escalate the pressure with sustained political actions that grow in intensity and power each week. The power in this case does not lie with judges, courts or the attorneys but rather the mobilization of the community, in the streets, prying justice out of a political system that indulges, perpetuates and incentivizes barbaric, racist and homicidal police forces around the country.