CLEVELAND (AP) — Lawyers for the family of a 12-year-old black boy who was carrying a pellet gun when he was fatally shot by a white police officer have made an emphatic call for a special prosecutor to take over an investigation they say has been tainted by the public release of two expert reports that determined the shooting was justified.
The attorneys for the family of Tamir Rice sent a letter to Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty and held a news conference on Friday condemning McGinty for releasing reports they say were written by use-of-force experts with a decidedly pro-police bias.
"If the prosecutor is truly interested in pursuing this case impartially, why did his office choose these so-called experts," Rice family attorney Jonathan Abady said on the steps of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.
McGinty and his spokesman said they welcome criticism about the reports and emphasized the reports don't represent any conclusions and aren't indicative of the recommendation prosecutors will make to the grand jury that will decide whether to indict patrol officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.
"Some parties may be displeased with evidence or reports as they are disclosed, but by making them public before conclusion, there is an opportunity to correct errors," McGinty said in a statement.
Loehmann and Garmback went to a city recreation center last November after a man drinking a beer outside called 911 to report that a man was waving a gun and pointing it at people. The officers weren't told by a dispatcher that the caller said the man might be a kid and the gun might not be real.
A surveillance video shows a police cruiser driven by Garmback skidding to a stop near Tamir and then Loehmann shooting the boy within two seconds.
Police officials have said Loehmann ordered Tamir three times to put up his hands before he shot him. A former police union official said the officers had no way of knowing Tamir was carrying an airsoft gun that only looked like a real firearm.
The grainy, choppy surveillance video has no sound that can verify Loehmann's contention he repeatedly told Tamir to raise his hands as the cruiser sped toward him with the passenger door open. And it doesn't provide a clear picture about where the pellet gun was when Tamir was shot, whether it was in the waistband of his pants or whether he had removed it.
Those could be critical points for a grand jury to consider.
Rice family attorney Subodh Chandra said he wants to know whether McGinty's office, as is normal practice, will recommend to the grand jurors before their vote whether charges should be filed against the officers.
"They wear the jacket, tell the public what they think," Chandra said.
McGinty said no one should be surprised by the eventual outcome of the case. McGinty spokesman Joe Frolik said he "suspects" prosecutors will make a recommendation on charges but added: "At the end of the day, the grand jury has the final say."
The Rice family has a lawsuit pending against Cleveland and the officers in federal court.