A Cleveland Municipal Court Judge, Ronald B. Aldrine, released his opinion on Thursday afternoon that there is probable cause to charge Timothy Loehmann, a Cleveland Police Officer, with murder and other charges in the November 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice.
Eight clergy members and community activists filed court papers Tuesday seeking the arrest of the two Cleveland police officers involved in that killing. Judge Aldrine noted, “Generally, the initiation of criminal proceedings in the State of Ohio is the preserve of the prosecuting authority within a given jurisdiction. However, state law does provide an avenue for a private citizen having knowledge of facts to initiate the criminal process.”
“We believe that (Loehmann) and (Garmback) caused the death of Tamir Rice in deeds that were unconscionable, reprehensible, and, yes, criminal,” the Rev. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church said at a press conference.
Judge Aldrine wrote, “The video in question in this case is notorious and hard to watch. After viewing it several times, this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly.”
The relevant portions covers just 18 seconds where Tamir Rice suffers the wound, doubles up and falls to the ground. The judge notes that “the Zone Car containing Patrol Officers Loehmann and Garmback is still in the process of stopping when Rice is shot.”
He further noted the time, about four minutes after the shooting, “during which neither officer approaches Tamir as he lies wounded on the ground.” They restrain a young lady, Tamir’s sister, from going to her brother’s side. And it is nearly eight minutes before the paramedics arrive at the location.
The judge wrote, “The video depicts Rice approaching the Zone Car just as it pulls into the park but it does not appear to show him making any furtive movement prior to, or at, the moment he is shot. Again, because of the quality of the video, the young man’s arms are barely visible, but they do not appear to be raised or out-stretched. In the moments immediately before, and as the Zone Car approaches, the video does not display the toy gun in Tamir’s hands.”
Officer Loehmann ordered Tamir Rice three times to show his hands. He then shot Tamir Rice within two seconds of exiting from the car, the video shows.
The judge ruled, “There appears to be little if any time reflected on the video for Rice to react or respond to any verbal or audible commands given from Loehmann and Garmback from their Zone Car between the time that they first arrived and the time that Rice was shot. Literally, the entire encounter is over in an instant.”
Judge Aldrine ruled, “It is unquestionably sufficient to charge felony crimes in the words of the statutes.”
However, despite this ruling, it is unclear what will happen. Under the statute, the judge’s ruling is only “advisory in nature.”
He wrote, “The City Prosecutor may also decide to issue felony complaints in the Cleveland Municipal Court based upon his acceptance of the court’s determination that there is probable cause to believe certain accusations found in the affidavits posited against these Patrol Officers. However, those felony charges and perhaps some, or all, of the misdemeanor charges must ultimately be delivered to the Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney and, will then be subject to his discretion, and resolved in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.”
Judge Aldrine forwarded his opinion to city prosecutors and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. He did not order the officers to be arrested and cannot issue a warrant without a criminal complaint from the prosecutor.
The court filings were a move by activists to force the judicial system to expedite the case.
The prosecutor’s office released a brief statement:
“This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement, will go to the Grand Jury,” Prosecutor Timothy McGinty wrote. “That has been the policy of this office since I was elected.”
Judge Aldrine ruled there is probable cause for charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, dereliction of duty against Officer Timothy Loehmann. Officer Loehmann is the officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir.
Judge Aldrine also found probable cause for negligent homicide and dereliction of duty charges against Officer Frank Garmback. Officer Garmback drove the car that responded to Cudell Recreation Center on November 22 when Tamir Rice was shot.
Judge Aldrine concluded: “To reach these determinations, this court applies the standard of probable cause, i.e., more than a mere suspicion but less than the quantum of evidence required for conviction.”
However, he warned, “The prosecutors, however, are ethically required to decide whether, applying the highest standard of proof required by law, to wit: beyond a reasonable doubt, it is more likely than not that a reasonable trier of fact will hold the individuals accused in these affidavits accountable for these, or any other crimes that might be alleged.”
Therefore, he wrote, “This court reaches its conclusions consistent with the facts in evidence and the standard of proof that applies at this time.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting