Cleveland officer said he thought 12-year-old he shot was active shooter

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 01, 2015 6:55 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A Cleveland police officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old child in a park said in a signed statement released by prosecutors on Tuesday that he yelled for the boy to show his hands and saw him pull a gun from his waistband.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury is considering whether Officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot Tamir Rice, should face charges along with his partner, Frank Garmback, in the November 2014 incident in a park next to a city recreation center.

Loehmann shot Rice twice within seconds of leaving a police car that pulled up next to the child in response to a 911 call of a man waving a gun in the park. Rice, who died the next day, had a replica handgun that uses plastic pellets.

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

Loehmann, a new officer being trained by Garmback, described the scene as "an active shooter situation" and said in the statement he "observed the suspect pulling the gun out of the waistband with his elbow coming up."

Garmback said in his statement he saw Rice with what he thought was a real gun. The vehicle he was driving slid when he applied the brakes and "did not stop where and when I intended," his statement said.

An attorney representing Rice's family, Subodh Chandra, said the officers' statements were inconsistent with each other and were contradicted by a security video that captured the shooting.

"Loehmann, for example insists that he observed things and took action that would have been physically impossible for any human being to do in the under two seconds it took him to shoot a 12-year-old child," Chandra said.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department received the statements for its investigation into the shooting and turned them over to the prosecutor, who released them after Loehmann and Garmback were subpoenaed for the grand jury.

Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has released evidence in the case while the grand jury hears testimony in what his office said is an attempt to maintain transparency.

Rice's family, which wants charges filed against the officers, has been critical of the release of evidence and has asked for McGinty to step down from the case and have a special prosecutor appointed.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by David Bailey and Peter Cooney)