This week, a grand jury failed to indict officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, which likely comes as a surprise to anyone who saw the video of the police cruiser skidding up to Rice and Loehmann shooting him two seconds later.
However, despite losing the case, prosecutor Tim McGinty did not act like a man who suffered a legal failure. In fact, McGinty openly said that he agreed with the decision, and even recommended to the grand jury that they not indict the officers.
The Huffington Post’s Christian Farris wrote that McGinty “turned the grand jury in the Tamir Rice case into his plaything,” selectively using information to blame Rice for his own death and painting the officers as totally innocent in the situation.
In 2012, Loehmann left the Independence, OH police force after deputy chief Jim Polak recommended his dismissal. Loehmann suffered an “emotional meltdown” that made his ability to operate a firearm “dismal.”
Despite his dismissal in Independence, Loehmann was soon hired by the Cleveland police force. After shooting Rice, McGinty did not mention any of Loehmann’s mental health or firearm issues in the prosecution, and called him a “reasonable” police officer.
McGinty spent much of his time describing Tamir Rice as a big and scary 12-year-old, constantly mentioning Rice’s size, specifically his size 36 jeans.
“If we put ourselves in the victim’s shoes, as prosecutors and detectives try to do, it is likely that Tamir, whose size made him look much older and who had been warned that his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day, either intended to hand it over to the officers or show them it wasn’t a real gun,” said McGinty.
Steve Martin, an expert in the proper use of force in a correctional setting, said that McGinty’s facts were “tangential” and not indicative that proper procedure was followed.
“If you come upon a situation where there is risk of harm, the question is how imminent is the threat. That controls whether you can take time and distance to assess — time to put distance between yourself and the subject,” said Martin.
One of the biggest problems in the case was the officer’s decision to pull up directly next to Rice. A police officer from another district, who remained anonymous, said that it appeared that the officers could have parked “100 or 200 yards away and taken cover.”
McGinty again defended the officer’s decision, and said that they had “reasonable belief” that Rice was an imminent threat, which is why they approached so close. McGinty’s portrait of Rice portrayed him as large and menacing, a racist belief that is supported by psychological studies.
Although many are shocked and disappointed by the result of the case, it is sadly nothing new. Like McGinty, most prosecutors in police misconduct cases present information to undermine their own case and work to ensure a non-indictment.
Featured image: Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer