Tamir Rice shooting: Cleveland mayor urges patience amid city review

Cleveland's mayor is appealing to citizens to be patient with the city's "due process" after a grand jury's decision to clear a rookie police officer and his partner in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014.

Family cries foul after death of boy wielding pellet gun called 'a perfect storm of human error'

Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by police in Cleveland after officers responded to a 911 call about a 'probably fake' gun being brandished at a playground. (Facebook) (Facebook)

Cleveland's mayor is appealing to citizens to be patient with the city's "due process" after a grand jury's decision to clear a rookie police officer and his partner in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014.

Frank Jackson told reporters on Tuesday he understands "people are mad" about a grand jury clearing two Cleveland police officers in the fatal shooting of Rice, who was brandishing a toy gun in a park, due to a lack of evidence indicating criminal activity. 

The mayor has already announced that the city and police department will proceed with an administrative review that could result in discipline against the officers, who remain on restricted duty.

Jackson would not comment on the grand jury's decision, but said he has heard from citizens expressing a perceived "lack of fairness and a lack of justice" after the decision. 

"Whether they agree with the grand jury decision, we are moving ahead with our process," Jackson said. "People have a right to express themselves. What they don't have a right to do is to do violence to people or property."

The grand jury for weeks had been hearing testimony on the shooting of Rice, which took place seconds after police arrived at a park next to a Cleveland recreation centre in response to reports of a suspect with a gun. Rice died the next day.

Samaria Rice, centre, the mother of Tamir Rice, speaks during a news conference at the Olivet Baptist Church in Cleveland on Dec. 8, where she told reporters the officers involved in her son's death should be criminally convicted. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Rice's shooting is one of several cases that have raised questions about police use of deadly force in the United States, particularly against minorities. The officers involved in the shooting were white and Rice was black.

Rice was playing with a replica handgun outside a recreation centre when Officer Timothy Loehmann shot him twice after reaching the park in a squad car driven by his partner, Frank Garmback.

Protesters began to gather outside Cleveland's downtown justice centre Tuesday evening. So far, there have been just a handful of peaceful protests around the city.

However, lots of people have posted their thoughts on social media sites such as Twitter.

Tamir's family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the two officers and the city. 

'Manipulating the grand jury process'

In a statement released Monday to the media through a lawyer, Tamir's family alleged McGinty has "mishandled the grand jury process," and called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting.

The family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."

Two outside reviews by an FBI agent and a Denver prosecutor conducted at McGinty's request concluded in October that Loehmann was justified in killing Tamir.

"It is unheard of and highly improper for a prosecutor to hire 'experts' to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation," the Rice family statement reads.

McGinty said Monday he put the case before a grand jury so the evidence would be reviewed not only by a prosecutor but also by a panel of citizens who would make the final call on whether charges were merited.

The family urged anyone who is disappointed in the grand jury decision to express that "peacefully and democratically."

Tamir looked 'much older'

McGinty said enhanced video evidence showed that Rice was reaching for the replica gun, which shoots plastic pellets, when a police squad car responding to a 911 call of a man waving a gun rolled up next to him.  An officer then stepped out and shot him.

"At the point where they suddenly came together, both Tamir and the rookie officer were no doubt frightened," McGinty said.

The replica handgun taken from 12-year-old Tamir Rice is displayed after a November 2014 news conference in Cleveland. (Mark Duncan/Associated Press)
"It is likely that Tamir, whose size made him look much older and who had been warned that his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day, either intended to hand it over to the officers or show them it wasn't a real gun. But there was no way for the officers to know that because they saw the events rapidly unfolding in front of them from a very different perspective."

Twelve-year-old Tamir stood five-foot-seven, weighed 175 pounds and wore a men's XL jacket.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press


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