By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Cleveland has transferred its investigation into the fatal police shooting of a 12-year-old boy to the Cuyahoga County sheriff's department, city officials said on Friday.
Cleveland police shot and killed Tamir Rice at a park in November while he was carrying a replica gun that typically shoots plastic pellets. Police, who were responding to a 911 call that a man was pointing a gun at people, shot Rice within seconds of arriving at the scene.
"I believe that the best way to ensure accountability in a use of force investigation is to have it completed by an outside agency," Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said in a statement.
He said the decision would add transparency and an "extra layer of separation and impartiality." Cuyahoga County includes the city of Cleveland.
Attorneys for the Rice family said in a statement they were "cautiously optimistic" transferring the investigation would ensure its impartiality.
"We are further hopeful that this independent investigation will shed some light on why the police car nearly drove on top of Tamir Rice, and why he was shot less than two seconds after officers converged," the statement said.
Jackson said last month he also was interested in having an outside agency investigate the incident, which was caught on video.
The Rice shooting came at a time of heightened scrutiny over use of force by U.S. police. Cleveland's police force has been under a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which found last month that the department systematically engages in excessive use of force.
The Rice investigation will be led by Clifford Pinkney, the department's first African-American chief and second in command to Sheriff Frank Bova. Rice was black, while the officer who shot him is white.
The Rice family has filed a federal wrongful death suit against the city.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Michael Perry)