Probe of police death of boy, 12, now in prosecutors' hands

AP News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2015 4:18 PM
Probe of police death of boy, 12, now in prosecutors' hands

CLEVELAND (AP) — The investigation into the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old black boy holding a pellet gun by a white Cleveland patrolman was turned over Wednesday to a county prosecutor, who will ask a grand jury to determine if criminal charges should be filed against the officer.

Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinckney said his department conducted an "extensive, thorough and unbiased" investigation into the shooting of Tamir Rice outside a recreation center on Nov. 22.

Tamir was shot by rookie patrolman Timothy Loehmann within two seconds of a police cruiser skidding to a stop nearby. He died the next day.

Loehmann and his partner were answering a 911 call about someone waving a gun. Tamir had been playing with an airsoft-type gun that shoots non-lethal plastic projectiles.

The public release of surveillance video of the shooting has made Tamir part of a national conversation and protest movement over deadly police encounters involving black suspects. Cleveland officials, ministers and others have expressed concerns whether protests would remain peaceful once it's decided whether Loehmann will be charged.

Walter Madison, an attorney for Tamir's family, called the completion of the sheriff's investigation significant. He said Tamir's family feels anxious about the outcome of Tamir's case because of how other racially-charged cases have been resolved. In two — in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City — no officers were charged criminally in the deaths of black suspects and in another — also in Cleveland — a white officer was acquitted in the deaths of two unarmed black motorists following a high-speed chase.

"They didn't ask to become victims," Madison said of Tamir's family. "Now they're here, they can't help but empathize with all of the other incidents."

The investigation is now in the hands of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty's office.

"In accordance with our office policy, we will review the investigation, do additional investigation if it is needed, and present everything to the grand jury," McGinty said in a statement.

Earlier this week, a federal judge delayed part of a civil rights lawsuit filed by Tamir's family. Attorneys for Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, had requested a delay as the potential criminal case proceeds.

Citing concern for the officers' rights against self-incrimination, the judge put the discovery process of the case on hold for 60 days. The ruling didn't delay the lawsuit as it related to the city of Cleveland.

The completion of the criminal investigation comes a week after a settlement between Cleveland and the U.S. Justice Department in which the city agreed to sweeping changes in how its police officers use force and treat the community.

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, issued a statement Wednesday that called on McGinty to "act with a sense of urgency."

"The citizens of Cleveland deserve swift action," Fudge said. "The investigation into the shooting of Tamir Rice has taken too long. Our goal is justice."