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Cleveland Judge Finds Probable Cause to Charge Officers in Tamir Rice Death
By Haeyoun Park and Robin Lindsay on Publish Date January 22, 2015.
A judge in Cleveland ruled Thursday that probable cause existed to charge two Cleveland police officers in the death of a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, but the judge also said he did not have the power to order arrests without a complaint being filed by a prosecutor.
In his ruling, Judge Ronald B. Adrine, presiding judge of the Municipal Court, found probable cause to charge Officer Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and dereliction of duty. He also found probable cause to charge Officer Loehmann’s partner, Officer Frank Garmback, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
“This court determines that complaints should be filed by the prosecutor of the City of Cleveland and/or the Cuyahoga County prosecutor,” Judge Adrine wrote.
The shooting of Tamir last Nov. 22 was one of a series of killings of unarmed black males by police officers around the country that have prompted widespread protests and calls for reform in race relations and the use of force by officers. The county prosecutor, Timothy J. McGinty, has been handling the case, and although Judge Adrine’s ruling is not binding, it puts added pressure on Mr. McGinty in a closely scrutinized case.
Supporters of Tamir Rice outside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Tuesday before Game 3 of the N.B.A. Finals. Credit Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
Mr. McGinty released a terse statement indicating that he would not be rushed into filing a criminal complaint.
“This case, as with all other fatal use-of-deadly-force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury,” he said. “That has been the policy of this office since I was elected. Ultimately, the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged.”
In a statement, a city spokesman, Daniel Williams, said city prosecutors would leave the case to Mr. McGinty to “review and to determine whether charges will be issued.”
This week, a group of activists and community leaders asked the court to have the officers arrested under an Ohio law that allows “a private citizen having knowledge of the facts” to start the process by filing an affidavit with a court. They argued that the widely seen video of an officer killing Tamir had given nearly everyone “knowledge of the facts.”
The Ohio law, in effect in various forms since 1960, is unusual and rarely invoked, and lawyers have disagreed about what might be achieved by using it.
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After a public petition asking a judge to order the arrest of the two Cleveland police officers involved in the killing of Tamir Rice, a Cleveland judge ruled Thursday that probable cause existed to charge Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback in the death of the 12-year-old boy.
Walter Madison, a lawyer for Tamir’s family and one of the people petitioning the court, called Thursday’s result a victory. “The people made the system work for them,” he said. “The onus now is on the government to act, and I don’t think a prosecutor’s office is going to defy a court.”
But Henry Hilow, the lawyer for Officer Loehmann, said the ruling should have no effect on the process. “We’re not going to get caught up in the rhetoric of individuals who do not have firsthand knowledge of what took place that day and have not been privy to any of the investigation that’s been done,” Mr. Hilow said.
Ric Simmons, an Ohio State University law professor, said that Thursday’s findings did not change the fact that prosecutors would decide the next steps. “All it does essentially is put pressure on the county prosecutor,” he said.
The petitioners argued that the statute allowed ordinary citizens to bypass the police and prosecutors; if they showed probable cause that a crime had been committed, they said, then the court had no choice but to order the officers arrested. Some legal experts said the wording was not so clear.
Judge Adrine said there was a conflict between the law and rules laid down by the Ohio Supreme Court, so he could not issue warrants without a prosecutor’s complaint.
A memorial to Tamir Rice at Cudell Recreational Center in Cleveland, where he was shot and killed by the police. Credit Ty Wright for The New York Times
The Cuyahoga County sheriff’s office conducted a five-month investigation and handed its findings to Mr. McGinty’s office early this month, but they have not been made public, and Mr. McGinty said his office still had investigating of its own to do. Eventually, his office said, prosecutors will take the case to a grand jury, which will decide whether to issue indictments. But no one could say how long that would take.
That, the petitioners said, was the problem; they argued that if the people involved had not been wearing uniforms, they would have been arrested long ago. Yet nearly seven months after Tamir died, no decision has been made.
“The video in question in this case is notorious and hard to watch,” Judge Adrine wrote in his order. “After viewing it several times, this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly,” he wrote, adding that Officer Loehmann fired his gun before the car he was riding in had even come to a stop.
On the day he was shot, Tamir was playing in a Cleveland park, brandishing a lifelike, airsoft-style gun, which fired plastic pellets. A 911 caller reported his behavior to the police, but emphasized that the gun was probably not real, and that the person holding it was probably a minor. That information was not conveyed to the responding officers.
In the video, taken by a surveillance camera, a police car with Officer Garmback at the wheel drives onto the grass and stops a few feet from Tamir. Though image quality is poor, Judge Adrine wrote, “it does not appear to show him making any furtive movement prior to, or at, the moment he is shot.”
The police officer in the passenger seat, Officer Loehmann, 26, steps out and immediately fires twice, hitting the boy once in the torso.
Tamir’s 14-year-old sister tries to run to him, but the officers force her to the ground, handcuff her and put her in their car, and then stand beside Tamir. For at least four minutes, no one tries to provide first aid. An ambulance arrives almost eight minutes after Tamir is shot.
Judge Ronald B. Adrine
Administrative and Presiding Judge
shit got real
gotta keep the riots from starting justice has now been intimidated
Then you get them celebratory riots like when the Lakers win the finals.
Just can't fathom this shit. Really. No wonder there are riots. I'd prolly riot as well.
they sell those jesus candles at this supermarket I go to once in awhile
I bought a few of them once and put them in the front window all lit up at night
the wife called me a moron, told me to blow them out and throw them away
I did blow them out--but hid them in the garage--they'll make another appearance
Jeez. This is fascinating: starting the machinery of a criminal action without an arrest, arraignment, plea, information or indictment. My head is spinning.
Agreed, no matter what happens or how we feel we cannot abandon our justice system.
I'm sure his sister's head was spinning as well...she was all like what the fuck?
Oh Boy ... finally the voice of "reason"
the cops get off
the cops go to jail
either way this is old news
seriously--I should be concerned that any story more than a month old holds zero interest for me
I do feel this cop acted irresponsibly which led to a death.
But this is just grandstanding
A judge who issues an inflammatory decree that he knows full well can't be unforced should be impeached.
how often do you get a chance to kill a 12 y/o boy, that's some powerful mojo in the spirit world...
Revealing secrets again!
I notice you've made no mention that the kid was waving around a gun.