By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A group of Cleveland area clergy members on Thursday asked the prosecutor in charge of the shooting case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice to step aside in light of comments he made about the family’s “economic motives.”
"The public trust in (Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty's) representation of the public interest has been significantly compromised," said Rev. Dr. Jawanza Colvin of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. He spoke at a press conference attended by several clergy.
Added Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Cleveland suburb of Beachwood: "A mother is grieving. She need not be stigmatized or shamed."
A spokesman for McGinty said the prosecutor had no plans to step aside from this investigation, which is not yet complete.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury is hearing testimony in the Nov. 22, 2014, shooting. Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association said some of his officers had been called to testify.
Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann shot Rice twice in the abdomen after responding to a 911 call of a man brandishing a handgun outside a recreation center. The officers are white, and Rice, who was playing with a replica gun at the time of the shooting, was black.
Loehmann shot Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene, and he died the next day.
Rice's mother, Samaria Rice, last month delivered a letter to McGinty’s office detailing why a special prosecutor should take over the case, days after it released reports from experts that ruled the shooting “reasonable.”
When asked at a Democratic fundraiser last week if he would step aside, McGinty told a local NBC affiliate that Rice's family members had waited until they did not like the reports they received on the incident.
"They're very interesting people; let me just leave it at that," McGinty told WKYC. "And they have their own economic motives."
(Reporting by Kim Palmer, Editing by Ben Klayman and Lisa Von Ahn)