By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - African-American leaders in Cleveland on Wednesday called for voters to reject the county prosecutor's bid for re-election next year after he recommended that police officers face no charges in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy McGinty on Monday said a grand jury followed his recommendation and cleared two officers in the November 2014 fatal shooting of Rice, who was brandishing a replica gun in a park.
McGinty, a Democrat, said a series of errors that led to the shooting did not amount to criminal conduct by Officer Timothy Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback. Loehmann shot Rice within seconds of arriving at the park in response to a report of a suspect with a gun.
"We are calling for community members to vote against Prosecutor Timothy McGinty. He needs to be out of office," community activist Basheer Jones told a news conference that included religious leaders and the president of the Cleveland NAACP.
Jones said the loose coalition could support either a Democratic or Republican alternative to McGinty.
McGinty is opposed in the Democratic primary by Parma Safety Director Michael O'Malley. The party did not endorse a candidate in the March primary. A prosecutor's office representative declined to comment on the election.
Rice's death was one of several nationwide that have fueled scrutiny of police use of force, particularly against minorities. The officers are white and Rice was black.
The call to defeat McGinty came hours before Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was to announce police department changes following fatal officer shootings of black residents that have prompted demands for his resignation.
Rice's family has asked the U.S. Justice Department to review McGinty's handling of the grand jury, which they believe was manipulated to exonerate the officers.
Cleveland NAACP president Michael Nelson Sr. said on Wednesday he planned to ask a court to release grand jury transcripts.
Activists held a third day of protests on Wednesday with about two dozen gathering at the front steps of the downtown building where the prosecutor's office is located. Meanwhile, about 20 protesters marched in sympathy in Columbus, Ohio, in front of the statehouse.
Cleveland councilman Jeff Johnson on Wednesday asked the city attorney to seek negligent homicide and dereliction of duty charges against the two police officers in the Rice shooting. The two charges are violations of city laws and are misdemeanors heard in the municipal court system.
Police have started an administrative review to determine whether the officers or others should be disciplined over the shooting. Rice had a replica of a .45-caliber handgun that fires plastic pellets.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)