Two outside experts have concluded that the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was "reasonable."
S. Lamar Sims, a district attorney from Colorado, and Kimberly Crawford, a former FBI agent, wrote separate reports—released by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office—that came to the same opinion: Tim Loehmann, the officer who shot Rice dead less than a second after seeing him were justified.
Rice's death was a particularly tragic symbol of a year in which police killings of unarmed black people came under intense national scrutiny he was killed after Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, came to the park where he was playing. They were responding to a 911 call about a man waving a gun. The caller's caveats that the gun was possibly fake were apparently not relayed to the officers. Rice was carrying a toy gun. Garmback was driving the car the officers were in and pulled up just feet from Rice. Almost immediately, Rice was shot.
From the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
"There can be no doubt that Rice's death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking," Sims wrote in a 52-page analysis. "However, I conclude that Officer Loehmann's belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat."
Both experts reviewed surveillance camera footage of the shooting and concluded that the fact that Tamir reached toward his waistband gave first-year officer Timothy Loehmann legal reason to consider him a threat and open fire Nov. 22 outside Cudell Recreation Center on the city's West Side.
Sims also said that it was inappropriate to question whether Garmback needed to pull his car up so close to Rice.
"To suggest that Officer Garmback should have stopped the car at another location is to engage in exactly the kind of ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ the case law exhorts us to avoid" he wrote.
Attorneys for the Rice family harshly criticized the findings. "These supposed 'experts' – all pro-police – dodge the simple fact that the officers rushed Tamir and shot him immediately without assessing the situation in the least," they told local Cleveland station NewsNet5. In a statement to the New York Times, Rice family lawyer Jonathan Abady said he was worried that the Cleveland government was trying to influence a potential grand jury:
"Prosecutors exercise substantial influence over the grand jury process and whether an indictment will issue or not," he said. "The video footage and other evidence readily available from the outset made clear that this was a completely unreasonable use of deadly force against Tamir."