The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office released a redacted version of their investigation this weekend, and while the 224-page report, compiled by Sheriff’s Department investigators, offers no determination as to whether the November 22, 2014 shooting was justified, it shows fatal flaws in the system.
Perhaps most telling are accounts from witnesses – none of whom heard officers issue a warning to Tamir before one of them opened fire. This contrasts with police officers who insist that the officers ordered Tamir to “show your hands” three times before a shot was fired, even though many question the two seconds it took for them to approach the boy and open fire.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said that the release of the document was due to the need for the transparency regarding the facts. He hopes it will lead to an “intelligent discussion” of the case.
“If we wait years for all litigation to be completed before the citizens are allowed to know what actually happened, we will have squandered our best opportunity to institute needed changes in use of force policy, police training and leadership,” Mr. McGinty said, according to the Plain Dealer.
The paper reports that the prosecutor plans to take this evidence to a grand jury “to consider whether rookie Officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot Tamir, should face criminal prosecution along with his training partner, Officer Frank Garmback. “
Both men “declined to be interviewed by the investigators.” However, the paper reports that the “investigators interviewed more than two dozen people, including officers, dispatchers, firefighters and EMS responders, neighbors and witnesses. Investigators also reviewed hours of security footage, autopsy reports and material collected by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
“The investigation states early on, and reiterates later in the report, that ‘as unbiased collectors of fact, the [Sheriff’s Department] investigative team has not, and will not, render any opinion of the legality of the officers’ actions. Rather those decisions are in the sole purview of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO) and/or the Department of Justice.'”
The paper in a separate editorial is critical of the failure of the officers to cooperate in the investigation.
“Although the officers have understandable concerns about possible criminal prosecution, that was still wrong. The officers and the call-taker had a duty to cooperate in this investigation,” the paper writes.
“Their failure to offer their perspectives leaves the investigative report without a needed dimension – particularly given continued uncertainties highlighted in the report about the sequence of events, notably as to whether Loehmann issued any warning to Tamir prior to opening fire. At least one witness quoted in the report said she heard shots fired before Officer Loehmann told Tamir Rice to show his hands.”
Writes the paper, “The investigation reveals other chilling details about Tamir’s last moments and the severity of his wounds, and it uncovers disturbing issues relating to procedures in Cleveland’s handling of 911 calls and a seeming lack of Cleveland police interface with a police officer working off-duty at the Cudell Recreation Center, where the shooting occurred.”
The paper writes, “As attested to by a special FBI agent who was in the area investigating a bank robbery and who got to the scene about four minutes after the shooting – and who happened to be a highly trained paramedic with experience in severe abdominal injuries – what Tamir needed most was immediate transport to a hospital where he could get blood transfusions and surgery.
“It’s not clear, however, whether the delay in getting him to the hospital made a material difference given the severity of his wounds. The FBI agent was able to administer expert first aid once on the scene that may in fact have helped prolong Tamir’s life – as well as comforting him in what may have been his last moments of consciousness.”
We have the 911 call where an unidentified 52-year-old male called the police and reported seeing a male outside the Cudell Recreation Center with a “pistol.” The male is describing as sitting on a swing, pulling a gun in and out of his pants, scaring people. At the same time, the caller said that the individual could be a juvenile and the gun was “probably fake,” but he wasn’t sure.
The information was relayed by Dispatcher Constance Hollinger without the critical details. Dispatcher Beth Mandl told officers “there’s a black male sitting on a swing … pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people.” Ms. Mandl told investigators she was not aware that the 911 caller had said the suspect may be a juvenile or that the weapon probably was fake.
The Plain Dealer writes, “The apparent failure of Hollinger to provide Mandl with an accurate description of what the 911 caller told her underscores the urgent need to upgrade dispatcher training, oversight and accountability and to improve communication between call-takers and dispatchers.”
“The lack of detail set the stage for disaster,” the paper writes. “Garmback, driving the patrol car, appears to have made it worse. His aggressive approach — the report notes he drove the zone car over a curb, across the grass, past a playground to the gazebo where Tamir was standing — left no room for negotiation.”
The paper continues, “Why he didn’t stop the zone car at a distance to assess the situation and talk to Tamir defies logic. Better training on how to defuse a potentially violent confrontation appears merited. “
On the other hand, there “is the fact that Tamir was playing with a replica gun that looked all-too-real since its orange cap had been removed.”
Writes the Plain Dealer, “Investigators interviewed an anguished male who told them he was Tamir’s ‘best friend.’ He admitted he had traded the plastic, spring-powered air soft BB gun, a replica of a real-deal Colt target pistol, to Rice that very day for a cellphone.
“The boy, who has been identified in press reports as a 16-year-old, told Sheriff’s Department investigators that he’d owned the BB gun a long time but that at some point in the past the gun had malfunctioned. He took it apart to repair it, but was unable to get the orange tip that identified it as a toy gun back on the barrel.
“He said he told Tamir to be careful because the gun ‘looked real’ – a point repeatedly made by the five Cleveland officers who subsequently arrived on the scene, who told investigators that they believed that the weapon lying on the grass near Tamir was real.”
The editorial closes with a description likely to bring tears to the eyes of any parent.
They note that the FBI agent who administered first aid described Tamir’s wound as a “particularly disturbing injury with no visible blood,” but with “an open, eviscerated wound,” according to the report.
“[H]e needed bright lights and cold surgical steel,” the agent told investigators.
“But he didn’t tell Tamir that. Instead, he told him that he was a paramedic and he was there to help him. And Tamir – like the child he was – reached for the agent’s hand.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting