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The Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office announced on Monday that a Cleveland grand jury will not bring charges against either of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy by a Cleveland police officer in November of 2014.
A grand jury for weeks has been hearing testimony into the shooting of Tamir Rice within seconds after police arrived at a park next to a Cleveland recreation center in response to reports of a suspect with a gun. Rice died the next day.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said at a press conference on Monday that the shooting was "a perfect storm of human error," but that it was "indisputable" that Rice appeared to be drawing a gun from his waistband — even if it was a toy weapon.
"Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police," McGinty said.
The morning of the shooting on November 22, 2014, officers were dispatched to respond to a 911 call reporting someone who had been seen in the area with a weapon. The caller noted that the weapon was "probably fake," but the police dispatcher handling the call did not relay this last detail.
The rookie officer who fired the shots at Rice, 27-year-old Timothy Loehmann, said in a statement to the grand jury in December that he believed his life was in danger at the time. Loehmann responded to the park along with Officer Frank Garmbach — a 47-year-old police veteran who was behind the wheel of the police cruiser and serving as Loehmann's training officer.
In the statement, Loehmann said he assumed Rice was roughly 18 years old and 185 pounds. He said that he saw Rice's hand move toward his waist, and that he continued to yell "show me your hands" as the officers approached the boy.
"I was focused on the subject. Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn't fire. I was yelling the command 'show me your hands,'" Loehmann claimed.
The officer said he had very little time as he exited his vehicle. Fearing that Rice was an active shooter and that he and his partner were in danger, he discharged two fatal shots.
Footage of the shooting shows that Loehmann drew and fired his gun within two seconds of the patrol car pulling directly up to Rice, leaving in doubt the number of times he could have shouted orders to Rice, who was seemingly been given little chance to comply. Attorneys for Rice's family have repeatedly denied the officers' claims that the boy received sufficient warning before they opened fire.
In the footage of the incident, Rice appears alone in a gazebo. It is unclear why the officers did not stop the car some distance from Rice and use it as cover as they identified themselves, rather than suddenly pull up the car to within feet of him. Both officers declined to be interviewed by investigators, but provided unsworn written testimony that was presented to grand jurors on Tuesday.
After the shooting, four minutes passed before an FBI agent responded to the scene and attempted to administer first aid to Rice as the officers stood idly by.
The grainy footage also shows cops rushing to restrain Rice's 14-year-old sister as she attempted to check on her sibling. One officer pushed the girl to the ground and handcuffed her as she screamed, "My baby brother, they killed my baby brother," according to a lawsuit filed by Rice's family.
In response to that suit, the city issued a 41-page court filing claiming that Rice was to blame for his own death because he failed to "avoid injury."
McGinty's office released two reports from law enforcement experts who said that the officers' actions during the shooting were "reasonable," and a third report that provided a frame-by-frame analysis of the surveillance video with notes detailing how it appeared as though Rice was reaching for his waistband. Rice's family questioned the validity of these reports and expressed outrage over their release.
A lawyer for Rice's family issued a statement on Monday expressing disappointment — but not surprise — with the grand jury's decision. The family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment," and said the way the prosecutor handled the case added to their grief. They previously requested a special prosecutor, which was denied.
The statement also urged any protesters rallying against the grand jury decision to do so "peacefully and democratically."
A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family against the two officers and the city of Cleveland is still pending.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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