The two Cleveland police officers involved in the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice won’t face federal criminal charges because the video quality of the incident was too poor to make a conclusive decision, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
12-year-old Rice’s death energized the Black Lives Matter movement and called attention to the policing of minorities and children, the Associated Press reported. The decision did not excuse the officers’ actions but ruled that the cumulative evidence wasn’t enough to support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.
Rice was fatally shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann while playing with a pellet gun outside of a recreation center on Nov. 22, 2014, the AP reported. Officers responded to a 911 call from a man who was drinking beer while waiting for a bus who said a man was pointing a gun at people.
The man who made the 911 call told the dispatcher that it was likely a juvenile with a possibly “fake” firearm, the AP reported. The officers reportedly weren’t notified of that information.
“It was blatantly disrespectful that I had to learn from the Washington Post and the New York Times that the Department of Justice had shut down the investigation, after career prosecutors recommended a grand-jury be convened,” Samaria Rice said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Justice Department says it will not bring federal criminal charges against two Cleveland police officers for the 2014 fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, whose death became a national symbol in the Black Lives Matter movement. https://t.co/yEYLo3jJQc
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 29, 2020
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has to prove that an officer’s actions were purposefully illegal rather than a mistake or of poor judgment to bring federal civil rights charges, the AP reported. The DOJ declined criminal charges against officers in the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Rice’s family’s attorney Subodh Chandra said the DOJ’s “process was tainted” and that the family demands additional information about the recommendations made during the investigation be provided by prosecutors, the AP reported.
“We know from news reports and our own inquiries that career prosecutors recommended a grand-jury investigation, starting at least into obstruction of justice and perjury by the officers,” Chandra told the DCNF in a statement.
“It’s beyond comprehension that the Department refused to recognize that an officer who claims he shouted commands when the patrol car’s window was closed and it was a winter day can be proved to be lying,” Chandra told the DCNF. “The Rice family was cheated of a fair process by county prosecutors who took a dive on cross examining the officers and they’ve been cheated of a fair process yet again by the Justice Department.”
The DOJ said poor-quality surveillance video prevented prosecutors from determining whether Rice was reaching for his pellet gun just before he was shot, the AP reported. The officers say they directed Rice several times to show his hands.
The video was grainy, didn’t include audio and was largely blocked by an officer’s vehicle, according to the AP. Rice’s hands cannot be seen in the frame of the video. (RELATED: Cop Who Fatally Shot Tamir Rice Fired For Lying On Department Application)
“His [Rice’s] hands are not visible in the video and it cannot be determined from the video what he was doing,” federal prosecutors said, the AP reported.
The DOJ didn’t immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment at the time of publishing.
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