A newly released investigation into the police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice shows that witness statements contradict the officer’s testimony that he shouted a warning before pulling the trigger. On Thursday, an Ohio municipal judge found probable cause for a murder charge against the officer, which is what prompted the release of the investigation.
According to The Guardian, the report doesn’t say whether Rice’s death was justified. Rice was playing with a toy gun in a park, and a “concerned citizen” called 911 to report him for it. Dispatch didn’t tell the responding officers that the gun was probably fake, and it seems as though Officer Timothy Loehmann decided Rice was a threat because he was black and had something that looked like a gun.
At the time, Loehmann said that he told Rice to put his hands in the air several times, but Rice instead reached for something in the waistband of his pants. Loehmann said that there was nothing he could do at that point, because it seemed as though Rice was pulling a gun on him, so he pulled his trigger and shot Rice. Other officers said they thought Rice was about 20, and they thought the gun was real.
The witness statements, though, say nothing about hearing Loehmann shouting warnings of any kind. One woman said that she heard a warning after she heard two gunshots. A teenaged boy said he heard two shots, and a third a little while later.
A friend who’d given the toy gun to Rice said Rice had taken it apart, but was unable to reattach the bright orange plastic cap that would have immediately signaled the gun was a fake.
Cleveland responded to the wrongful death suit that Rice’s family filed by saying that Rice’s death was his own fault. That goes back to Loehmann’s original testimony that he’d warned Rice to put his hands up, and Rice had failed to do so. Of course, it’s easy to point and say, “See what happens when you don’t do what the police say?” This is how police departments and cities try to get out of responsibility for wrongful police deaths, like that of Tamir Rice.
With witness testimonies contradicting Loehmann, it looks more and more like this was a case of an officer responding to the stereotypical image of a black person with a gun, rather than the situation itself, as an officer should. Maybe now Rice’s family will get some justice for this.