Tamir Rice Investigation Shows Fatal Flaws In Shooting and Medical Response

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Captures from the Shooting Video Released by Cleveland Police following the November 2014 shooting
Captures from the Shooting Video Released by Cleveland Police following the November 2014 shooting

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.

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“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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 thoughts on “Tamir Rice Investigation Shows Fatal Flaws In Shooting and Medical Response”

  1. Davis Progressive

    if you read the report you see the comedy of errors:

    * miscommunication to the police officer from the dispatch

    * failure to get the kid medical attention quickly enough.  the fbi guy was great, but he was there four minutes after the shot was fired

    * did the officer communication to the kid to get his hands up/ failure to recognize it was a little kid

    * the missing orange strip on the gun to denote it was a toy not a real one

    * the failure of the officer to investigate from an appropriate distance

    there will be those who say, see this was not just on the officer and they have a point.  you also have the fact that the officer who shot him was a rookie still being trained.

    it’s a tragedy.

    so now let me inject race – if that’s a white kid holding the gun, does the officer recognize his age more quickly?  does he give him more of the benefit of the doubt?

    my answer: i think so.  i know that’s not what the conservatives believe or want to believe, but it’s what i believe.

  2. Tia Will

    DP

    While I agree with every thing you said, what struck me was a point made in the separate editorial.

    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.”

    Whether the decision to cooperate with the investigation is morally right or wrong, it is the only rational decision that our blame based, adversarial system of justice allows them if they are not to incriminate themselves, which they have no legal obligation to do. What we have here, as you have enumerated, is a system full of opportunities for improvement. There is nothing whatsoever that we can do to restore the life of this boy. However, there is much that we can do to prevent future such episodes. However, our system with its punitive nature ensures that not all perspectives will be heard as those involved will quite naturally act in what they see as their own self interest. It is only with a full accounting of what every one was perceiving and thinking in the moments preceding their actions that the best practices could be gleaned and taught. Unfortunately, our system will preclude this from occurring as each individual will want to portray their own actions in the best possible light so as to avoid punishment.

    Is this really the best system that we can devise ?

    1. hpierce

      Propose an alternative system… we can discuss.  Always liked the RFK quote along the lines of it’s easy to criticize what ‘is’, much harder (and more noble) to envision what ‘could be’.  We know how you envision an economic system, please share what you would envision for a legal system.  Positive concepts.

    2. Davis Progressive

      “Is this really the best system that we can devise ?”

      it’s not but i can’t really blame people who are facing criminal sanctions potentially from avoiding being asked questions in an investigation. i’m not even sure how you would get around that problem in a non-adversarial system.

  3. Tia Will

    hpierce

    Fair request. Given that I have no legal background what so ever, I will share my ideas and a little background about where they came from.

    In my 30 years in medicine, I have seen a dramatic change in how tragedies, bad outcomes, and just plain everyday complications are handled. When I was first in training, it was very common to be encouraged to cover up mistakes. We were taught to never apologize and to never admit to error directly even when we knew exactly what had gone wrong. This strategy was based on fear of litigation and loss of license for a single bad outcome. As surgeons, we all have complications, some are error induced and some will just occur even if everything is done by the demonstrated best practice of the time. However, as has been pointed out on other threads, medicine has been plagued by error induced complications, some by individual error, but often as in the case by systems malfunctions. As a group, surgeons in my very large group have made remarkable strides in patient safety and complication rate reduction by changing our mind set. We have gone from a process of obfuscation to one of openness with remarkable results. All “never events” and major complications are debriefed with the entire involved team in attendance. Everyone’s point of view is heard and evaluated in the process from the housekeeping staff (applicable in cases of infection), the nursing staff, anesthesiology and the operating surgeons and consultants.

    Based on the reductions in preventable injury that I have seen through the years, I would make these recommendations within our legal system.

    1. Drop the punitive nature of our system which prevents people from telling their own truth in favor of a system that rewards honesty. This does not mean sacrificing safety. People may be found to not be adequately trained for the position they are in, or they may be found to not be suitable for the position they are in. If this is the case, they should not be demonized or punished but rather retrained or reassigned as fits the situation. As one example, perhaps an officer who is found to be too quick to draw and shoot, might rather than having his and his families lives destroyed be reassigned to some non weapons bearing function. I believe that this type of system would work because I agree with my more conservative posters that the majority of police are not brutal or evil and are trying their best to do a good job. Our processes should support them, not isolate them.

    2. Investigations of episodes of wrongful use of force should be handled by independent outside agencies. It is unreasonable to expect objectivity from close associates within a punitive system as they will quite naturally want to have the backs of their friends and colleagues and will tend to defend them as their default position.

    3. Institute a system that does not reward lying by police, prosecutors, defendants or defense attorneys. A justice system should be just that, a means of promotion of just outcomes, not a game of winner advances their career or gains additional funding. What we should always be attempting to secure is the truth of each individual as a means of gaining the most accurate interpretation of what actually occurred. That cannot be achieved if we reward in any way lying as a means of obtaining one’s desired outcome.

    4. Recognize that what one observer reports will not be identical to information provided by another observer. The discrepancies in testimony do not necessarily mean that one party is telling the truth and the other lying, but rather that they had different perspectives on the event.  Observer error has been demonstrated repetitively and yet we persist in weighing the “truth” of police officers over that of other observers unless their testimony is in direct conflict with videotaped information. Only through independent investigation would it be likely that no more weight would be given to the evidence of someone with whom you work and perceive as “a good guy” than it would be to the evidence provided by an unknown. Only by the judgement of someone unknown to all parties will an objective interpretation be likely.

    5. Separate career or political advancement from a “tough on crime” or “soft on crime” paradigm. Within the legal system, I can see a couple of possibilities for making substantial change. 1. convert from an adversarial to a fact finding paradigm with all information presented to juries or judges by a neutral party who has no career investment in the outcome of the case. 2. If we cannot bear to part with our adversarial system,we could change the nature of the employment of lawyers within the criminal justice system such that their case assignments would sometimes have them representing the state and sometimes the accused. This would help them to see the legal issues from both sides of the fence hopefully instilling greater respect for justice than for the win.

    Just my preliminary thoughts. Eager to hear those of others.

     

    1. tribeUSA

      Tia–I concur with points 1 and 2; would hope that members of a jury would recognize the accuracy of point 4. Not sure how points 3 and 5 would be implemented; these would necessitate some pretty radical changes!–seems like you have some of that 1960s spirit! (which is not all a bad thing).

  4. Tia Will

    DP

    it’s not but i can’t really blame people who are facing criminal sanctions potentially from avoiding being asked questions in an investigation. i’m not even sure how you would get around that problem in a non-adversarial system.”

    And neither can I. I think that what might be needed is a complete mind shift away from “criminal sanctions” and “punishment” to a mind set of how can this individual who has created great harm, best contribute to our society from this point forward rather than destroying their lives and those of their families.  We have achieved this to a limited degree in medicine by allowing doctors who are not up to date or whose skills are not up to par to either retrain or to continue to practice in a limited capacity. I fully believe that most police, like most doctors want to do the right thing. I will use my situation as a case in point. About 5 years ago, I recognized that age related fatigue would soon have the potential for limiting my ability to perform at my peak at the end of our 12 hour shifts. Around the same time, I began noticing that when fatigued, I would occasionally develop a very fine tremor. I knew that these would only get worse with time. I asked for, and was granted by my department the right to stop taking in hospital L&D call and eventually to stop operating altogether. Years ago, I would have tried to mask or mitigate these symptoms in some way since I would not have had the option for office/administration /teaching position only and might have been forced out before my full retirement age and years of duty despite many years of service and potential to still contribute fully. Fortunately, our department takes a non punitive approach and encourages people to contribute to their own maximal capacity even after having made a major error. This is the kind of approach that I would like to see within our judicial system.

    I realize that I am asking for a lot, a complete paradigm shift. But the one we currently use is so terribly destructive of both the lives of the guilty and those of the innocent, that perhaps it is at least worth looking at without our ideologic blinders or recourse to using “tradition” as synonymous with “best practice”.

    Anyone out there who has made a study of legal practices of other countries have any insights ?

    1. hpierce

      Sorry, just am having problems getting my hands around how society should deal with the concept, “I think that what might be needed is a complete mind shift away from “criminal sanctions” and “punishment” to a mind set of how can this individual who has created great harm, best contribute to our society from this point forward rather than destroying their lives and those of their families.” in that context, with Holmes (Aurora shootings and bombs), McVeigh (OK City bombings), Manson, Hitler, Himmler, Saddam, Jim Jones, David Karesh, etc.

      Help me how to deal with (apparently) evil people.

      1. Davis Progressive

        “Help me how to deal with (apparently) evil people.”

        most people aren’t evil and yet we plan as though they are which is a huge error from a resource perspective.  yes, i know i’m not directly answering your question/ comment… but i think we need to start from that perspective first.

  5. Tia Will

    hpierce

    Help me how to deal with (apparently) evil people.”

    ” in that context, with Holmes (Aurora shootings and bombs), McVeigh (OK City bombings), Manson, Hitler, Himmler, Saddam, Jim Jones, David Karesh, etc.”

    Easy, these people are so damaged and so dangerous that they do not fit into “that context” which I was discussing. They fall outside that context and must be considered separately. Truly dangerous individuals need to be confined for the safety of the rest. I am not opposed to incarceration for those who are truly dangerous. I am opposed to locking up those who could be rendered “safe to be in society”  and potentially even contributory to society by some other means.

    A local example. After the pepper spraying incident there where those who felt that the officer committing the spraying should be charged with assault, convicted and locked up. Others merely felt that he had demonstrated that he was not fit for his job and should be fired. While I in no way approved of his actions, I did not favor either course. This is a situation that I felt should be addressed from a systems point of view. There were a number of steps along the way involving multiple decision makers that would have prevented his fateful and flawed decision making. However, our society often prefers to identify one scapegoat, “punish” him or her, and call it a day, thus precluding any real chance at changing the flawed system to one less likely to result in error and excessive use of force.

    1. tribeUSA

      Tia–yes, I agree that the UCD pepper-spray officer was scapegoated–actual responsibility for this incident is shared between the officer, the UCD police chief, and UCD officials all the way up to Katehi. I think it was an injustice that the officer lost his job because of this incident; a more appropriate course of action would have been a harsh reprimand and a mandatory training course or two–having to balance police action with the legal and political complexities of this protest situation, based on his own judgement alone, was way beyond his pay grade.

  6. Tia Will

    hpierce

    Help me how to deal with (apparently) evil people.”

    I gave your question some more thought and believe that I may have hit on a fundamental difference in how we view the world. It would appear to me that many people view the world in terms of “good and evil”. I tend to see with a different perspective. I see individuals in terms of their capacity for benevolence vs their capacity for harm. It is true that some people, such as those you named, have a capacity for harm that so exceeds any capacity for benevolence that our only option is to contain them. However, I think that in our zest to define people as either “good or evil” we frequently are willing to throw out the complex combination for benevolence vs harm that is intrinsic in every human being and thus brand far more as “evil” than is actually necessary or good for our society as a whole.

    1. hpierce

      My lack of response so far is digesting a number of your posts on the subject.  No heartburn thus far, but not sure how nourishing, at least at this point.  I truly want to thank you for your thoughtful responses, though.  I really respect your efforts.

    2. tribeUSA

      Tia–seems to me the ‘good vs evil’ duality is still a useful paradigm in modern times. Perhaps in modern language one of the ways in which evil can be usefully defined is in terms of malevolence of intent–the desire or intent to damage, wound, or destroy somebody else in order to gratify ones own psychic appetite for such actions, in and of themselves (with ‘good’ defined conversely)–and we do all have the capacity for malevolence (but hopefully most of us manage to vent such feelings with minimal damage); particularly if we are hurt by somebody else.

      But humans are capable of using thier will to strenthening their intent, good or ill, to enormous, perhaps irreversible levels–those that have so strengthened their mal-intent can perhaps usefully be referred to as ‘evil’, as a convenient shorthand.

  7. Tia Will

    tribeUSA

    seems to me the ‘good vs evil’ duality is still a useful paradigm in modern times”

    What do you see this duality as useful for ? I honestly do not see any beneficial effect.

    I see the creation of this duality as having the following effects :

    1. Divisions of humans into two camps. Them vs us. “We of course, will always be defined as the “good”. This artificial separation leads to a warped perspective in which exactly the same acts done by “our side” are done to protect, or defend or advance our interests whereas if those exact same acts are performed by the “evil” other side, they are of course brutal, senseless, or barbaric. It is the basis for conflict and ultimately war.

    2. Divisions within our own society lead us to despise others instead of considering how the talents of each might best be fostered so as to become both the strongest possible individual and the strongest possible contributor to the society.

    3. It serves as the basis for our possible most harmful delusion as a society. That we are necessarily better than all others simply because we are American. This delusion is harmful in a number of ways. Because many of us believe that we are inherently superior, we stop looking for ways to improve in any way except financially. Specifically, we stop looking at best practices of other countries which might be very helpful to us but which are discarded because the have a disliked label attached, or because we simply will not consider any other path forward even when it has demonstrably better outcomes. Why look and think if you already “know” that you are the best ?

    those that have so strengthened their mal-intent can perhaps usefully be referred to as ‘evil’, as a convenient shorthand.”

    Maybe if having a convenient shorthand were the only effect of the use of the term “evil” as a measure of your “mal -intent” or my “dangerousness” I would agree with the use of either of these terms. However, the word “evil” for many has such deeply ingrained emotions often connected with religion, that I do not believe it is possible to use this term and remain objective or even rationale for some people.

  8. tribeUSA

    Tia–oops, didn’t qualify my statements well enough. I agree its not accurate or useful to divide people into either ‘good’ or ‘evil’ categories, except perhaps for those we may recognize as saints or devils at the two polar extremes; everyone occupies the grey area with mixtures of good and bad intent and action.

    Perhaps the paradigm or mythos (if you prefer) of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ can be a useful social construct however, if it is accepted as part of the mental model or map of the world by most people, of polar endpoints–most will strive to be on the side of the angels/saints and work toward the (ever retreating) ‘good’ polar endpoint–without the paradigm (mental map) of good/evil, perhaps there is not such a striving to better oneself and ones behavior; and society degrades into a sloppy/poor/degraded behavior that might more resemble that of animals, making civilization more difficult to maintain or further social evolution more difficult–I don’t see much evidence yet that civilization has transcended the need for a good/evil paradigm, at least on the abstract level as a mental map for desirable/forsakable endpoint goals.

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