LDF Statement on the Non-Indictment of Cleveland Police Officers in the Shooting Death of Tamir Rice

“The failure to indict in this case compounds the tragic loss of Tamir Rice with grave injustice,” said Janai Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s (LDF) Associate Director-Counsel. Today, a grand jury failed to charge Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for the shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy playing with a toy pellet gun in a playground across the street from his house.  The officers shot Rice within two seconds of arriving on the scene in dangerously close proximity to Rice, all of which was captured on video. “The perceived threat to the responding officers as Rice allegedly reached toward his waistband for the pellet gun should be examined in light of the responding officers’ blatant failure to follow proper protocol in responding to the 911 call,” continued Nelson, “The officers’ conduct in creating the circumstances that lead to Tamir’s death was not only egregious, but their treatment of Rice’s mother and sister following the shooting showed a wanton disregard for the victim and his family that confirms previous reports that the officers are unfit to serve.”

This case is one of the most flagrant examples of how the criminal justice system routinely fails in ensuring accountability for the needless killing of unarmed civilians at the hands of police.  Rather than “a perfect storm of human error” as Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty described this tragedy, Rice’s death and the lack of accountability for it are a result of racial profiling, incompetent 911 services, over-zealous and reckless policing practices, and a systemic bias in favor of police.

LDF is calling for three critical actions in response to the failure to hold Officers Loehmann and Garmback criminally responsible for Rice’s death:

  1. We call on the Cleveland Police Department (“CPD”) to discipline Officers Loehmann and Garmback for their negligent and reckless conduct toward Rice, including but not limited to his shooting death and the subsequent failure to provide adequate medical assistance, in addition to the callous treatment of the Rice’s family in the aftermath of the incident.
  2. We support the Rice family’s renewed call for the Department of Justice to open an investigation specifically into the killing of Tamir Rice and to reopen the settlement it reached with the CPD to address the practices at issue in Rice’s death.
  3. We invite our civil rights colleagues to join us in re-examining the legal standards governing officer misconduct, including but not limited to the standards pertaining to use of force and qualified immunity.  

 In addition, LDF reiterates its concerns about the lack of independence of the prosecution in this and other cases, which has eroded public trust in the justice system. The disclosure of expert reports by Prosecutor McGinty in October foreshadowing the result reached by the grand jury, as well as the June order by a Cleveland Municipal Court judge finding probable cause for criminal indictments against the officers, cast doubt over the integrity of the process and highlight the need for special prosecutors in use of force cases to ensure a fair and transparent investigation.”

Press

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.

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