Activists bypass prosecutors, ask judge for murder charges in Tamir Rice case

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A Cleveland police officer responding to a call about a person with a gun fatally wounded a 12-year-old boy brandishing what turned out to be an air gun that looked very much like a real firearm, police said early Sunday.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Activists, civil rights leaders and clergy in Cleveland bypassed prosecutors and asked a judge directly for murder charges Tuesday against the two officers involved in last year’s shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

The group filed citizens’ affidavits for probable cause in Cleveland Municipal Court and asked a judge to issue arrest warrants for Cleveland police Officers Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann.

The group said it was invoking a rarely used Ohio law.

The activists have wearied of waiting on prosecutors for six months since the boy’s death and are “taking matters into their own hands utilizing the tools of democracy as an instrument of justice,” said the Rev. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.

“We believe that we are on the right side of history,” Colvin said at a press conference in front of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.

He said that “our actions are in a long human and civil rights tradition” of many “who have used the words of our democracy to hold our nation’s systems accountable and make this country a better place for all.”

The group is seeking charges of murder, aggravated murder, dereliction of duty and other offenses, said Walter Madison, the attorney for Tamir’s family.

“We are asking for an arrest,” Madison told reporters.

“This is a simple applying of the law that is available so that our government is responsive to us.”

The Ohio law allows “a private citizen” to file an affidavit with a municipal judge making an accusation of a crime. If it alleges a felony, a judge can “issue a warrant for the arrest of the person charged in the affidavit” if the judge deems it was filed in good faith and is meritorious. The law went into effect in 1960 and was amended in 1973.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department has completed an investigation into how police killed the boy. The results were handed over to prosecutors last week.

Police union president calls activists ‘mob rule’

Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis called the activists’ effort “mob rule.” The association is the union for patrol officers.

“It is very sad how miserable the lives of these self-appointed ‘activists, civil right leaders and clergy’ must be,” Loomis said in a statement. “I can’t imagine being so very consumed with anger and hatred.”

“Civilized society cannot permit the rule of law to be subverted by mob rule,” Loomis said. “Trying to coerce public officials into filing a criminal charge under direct/indirect threat of mob rule is a very dangerous game.”

Loomis described Tamir as a 5-foot-7-inch tall, 191-pound person who “pulled a replica Colt 45 handgun out of his waistband as two uniformed police officers in a marked Cleveland police car were approaching him while responding to a ‘gun run.’ ”

The shooting

Cleveland police shot the boy on November 22.

Tamir was in a park near his home playing with a pellet gun. A witness had called 911 and reported “a guy with a pistol.” But the caller added the weapon was “probably” fake. That information was not relayed to the officers who responded, according to recordings released by law enforcement. Loehmann fired on Tamir within two seconds of getting out of his car at the scene.

The boy died a day later.

The killing sparked outrage across the United States and made international headlines. His mother told CNN, “They never even gave him a chance.”

Tamir’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Cleveland. The mayor had to apologize for the wording of the city’s response, which blamed the 12-year-old for his own death.

 

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