Justice for Tamir Rice and his family? We’ll see.

Posted: December 9, 2014 in Political musings
Tags: , , , , , , ,

tamir-rice-11

Further shocking details are emerging about the killing of 14 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.

Millions of people worldwide have watched the video as a police car screams to a halt next to the young boy playing alone in a gazebo and two seconds later the boy is shot multiple times.

These key questions remain to be answered:

  • Why did the police despatcher not inform the responding officers that the person reporting the boy holding the gun that the gun was “probably fake”?
  • Why did the police car pull up next to him rather than a safe distance away and assess the situation more calmly?
  • How were “three warnings” given within two seconds? Police claimed, according to the Associated Press, that the officer who opened fire on Rice asked the boy to put his hands up three times, suggesting that Rice was given ample warning before he was shot. The video footage doesn’t specifically disprove this, but it suggests the officer who shot Rice, Timothy Loehmann, would have given the commands incredibly quickly — again: Loehmann shot Rice within two seconds of his squad car pulling up to the park pavilion. You try saying “Hands up” three times in two seconds. We can’t. Let alone in a manner that would be comprehended by a terrified 12 year old boy.

But the story becomes more incredible and painful. As Tamir Rice’s 14-year-old sister rushed to her brother’s side upon learning he’d been shot, police officers “tackled” her, handcuffed her and placed her in a squad car with the Cleveland officer who shot Tamir, her mother and a Rice family attorney told reporters Monday.

The mother, Samaria Rice, was threatened with arrest herself as she “went charging and yelling at police” because they wouldn’t let her run to her son’s aid, she said.

Speaking at a Baptist church in Cleveland, Rice recalled how a seemingly normal November 22 morphed into tragedy as two Cleveland police officers pulled up to her son outside a recreation center across the street from her home. As you can see here, within two seconds of exiting the police car, Officer Timothy Loehmann gunned down Tamir, 12. The boy died the next day. Tamir was playing with a pellet gun, and a witness who saw “a guy with a pistol” told 911 twice that it was “probably” fake but that Tamir was scaring people. It doesn’t appear the 911 dispatcher relayed the information to Officers Loehmann, 26, and Frank Garmback, 46.

Police have said that Loehmann, who has been criticised for his policing in the past, opened fire after Tamir reached for the gun in his waistband and that an orange tip indicating the gun was a toy had been removed. Rice said she didn’t allow her son to play with toy guns, explaining that one of his friends had given it to him.

Records from the suburban Independence Police Department obtained by CNN include comments from a supervisor detailing what they called “a pattern of lack of maturity, indiscretion and not following instructions,” a “dangerous loss of composure during live range training” and an “inability to manage personal stress.”

“He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” according to the letter written by Deputy Chief Jim Polak of the Independence police.

The letter recommended that the department part ways with Loehmann, who went on to become a police officer with the Cleveland Division of Police.

“I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies,” Independence Deputy Chief Jim Polak wrote of the police shooter in a November 2012 memo. So the next question to be asked is:

  • Why was this man allowed to continue as a frontline policeman?
  • Were his immediate superiors in the Cleveland Division of Police aware of the 2012 report?

It seems likely not. Apparently Cleveland officials drove to Independence to gather information about hiring the officer who eventually shot the boy, but never looked at his personnel file.

Cleveland police spokesman Sgt. Ali Pillow said Wednesday officers asked Independence police about Timothy Loehmann before hiring him in March, but police there referred them to the human resources department.

Pillow said the Independence human resource department told them Loehmann had no disciplinary actions taken against him. Loehmann officially resigned from Independence but officials there had been prepared to release him from duty.

The personnel file contained the Polak reports who questioned Loehmann’s ability to handle the duties of a police officer after an emotional breakdown during firearms training and other incidents that caused concern for his superiors.

They eventually decided they wanted to release Loehmann from the department but allowed him to resign.

Cleveland police on Wednesday amended their written policy on reviewing public personnel files for someone trying to get hired, Pillow said. Incredibly, they previously had no policies about viewing personnel files.

A harrowing knock on the door

Tamir’s mother recalled Monday how she got the news that the youngest of her four children had been shot.

“Two little boys came and knocked on my door and said, ‘Police officers just shot your son twice in the stomach,’ ” she said. “I really thought they was playing, like joking around, but I saw the seriousness in their face, and it scared me,” she said.

She ran to the scene, admittedly frantic, and arrived at the same time as an ambulance. Officers wouldn’t let her check on her son, she said, “and then I saw my daughter in the back of a police car, the same one the shooter got out of.” Family attorney Walter Madison said police placed Tamir’s sister in the car with Loehmann.

Samaria Rice said she calmed down and asked police to release her daughter. They told her no, she said. Not only would they not release her daughter, but later, she said, they made her choose: stay with her daughter or accompany her son to a hospital.

She chose the latter but was told she couldn’t ride in the back of the ambulance with her son, so she rode in the front seat on the way to the hospital, she said.

“The treatment of the family is unacceptable,” said Councilman Jeffrey Johnson, who appeared alongside the family at the news conference. “It just shows the lack of training when we shackle a grieving sister, threaten a grieving mother and not even take care of a child lying on the ground.”

Cleveland police declined to discuss the family’s allegations. Detective Jennifer Ciaccia told CNN, “We’re really not commenting further at this point.”

first aid

In a lawsuit filed last week against the city and the two officers, the family says Loehmann and Garmback “refused to provide any medical attention to Tamir for at least four minutes as he lay on the ground alive and bleeding.”

We may never know if that four minutes was crucial in the death of the child. Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams has previously said that four minutes after Tamir was shot, a detective and FBI agent arrived and the FBI agent administered first aid. Paramedics arrived three minutes later, the chief said.

One has to ask: having realised they have needlessly shot a 12 year old boy with a toy gun, how could anyone, in all conscience, leave him terrified and bleeding for four minutes on the ground?

Attorney: Brown, Garner cases aren’t templates

Attorney Benjamin Crump said the Rice family is “very distrustful” of the justice system, and in light of the grand jury rulings in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, is demanding a transparent investigation.

In contrast to the Brown and Garner cases, the family also wants the officers — who are on paid leave — charged before a grand jury hears the case, said Crump, who also represents the Brown family.

“There is nothing written anywhere in the law that says police officers are to be treated differently from any other citizen,” Crump said. “We cannot have children playing cops and robbers on a playground and police officers coming and claiming their lives.”

Tamir was by himself in a gazebo when Garmback and Loehmann pulled onto the grass alongside the gazebo and got out of their car. From the despatcher’s failure to relay the report that the gun was probably fake to the haste with which Loehmann shot the sixth-grader, Crump said “several things were done inappropriately,” which is sufficient probable cause to charge the policemen.

The family attorneys also called for the ouster of Safety Director Michael McGrath and Martin Flask, executive assistant to the mayor — a call echoing one by Councilman Johnson, who asked for their resignations in a Cleveland newspaper last week after a Justice Department report that said Cleveland police had a pattern of excessive force.

The family’s primary objective, Crump said, is to “hold the killer of their child accountable.”

“Tamir was a bright child. He had a promising future,” his mother sadly said, explaining that he was a talented artist, drummer and athlete.

Asked what would represent justice in her eyes, Samaria Rice replied, “I’m actually looking for a conviction.”

A thorough and meaningful investigation and charges – if warranted – would be a start. And we assert that the place for these matters to be settled is in open court. Another Grand Jury sitting “in camera” and finding yet another policeman has no case to answer will lead to more civil trouble across the US, and a further widespread loss of confidence in the “system”. But currently it looks like the matter will go to a Grand Jury again.

Meanwhile, the innocents are left to mourn. On Sunday Tamir’s father Gregory Henderson said the youngster had his whole life ahead of him when he was gunned down.

Wiping away tears, he said: ‘Who would’ve thought he would go so soon? He had his whole life ahead. To be 12 years old, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Police, they know what they’re doing.’

Whether or not they do is what a court should decide.

And we also note, this case is different from the Brown case in Ferguson. In this case, there’s a video.

And we ask – not to create tension, but simply to speak truth to power – this question must be asked by anyone who sincerely wants America’s streets to be safer for all, and for that great nation to stop torturing itself in this manner – would this have happened if the young man was white? We will not enter a debate on the matter: we assert it is for every individual reading this sorry tale to ask themselves in the quiet of their heart, “would this have happened if the boy was white”, and to reflect on their ponderings.

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Comments
  1. underwriiter505 says:

    My doctor thinks they will throw the cop under the bus and eat the lawsuit. I think he is dreaming. There was video in the Garner case and there was no indictment. I am old and have limited mobility and I cannot be out there in the streets. I did obtain and give my dear friend who has two teenaged sons copies of a black males’ survival guide. I can sign petitions. I don’t know what else I can do except pray. I am horrified and ashamed for my country.

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  2. Pat A says:

    I am sorry to say that I agree with underwriter505 – there seem to be more and more instances of this sort of terrible thing happening every few days in America – and each time they are told that there is no case to answer – are the authorities actually trying to cause civil unrest, because it looks that way to many people both in America and abroad. This situation is terrifying – and on so many levels.

    I watched that video on Daily Kos (I think it was) just after the tragedy – I didn’t want to, but I felt that I had to get the facts – and the police drove up near to the kiosk, got out and fired in about two seconds. Poor child – his poor family and friends who mourn. I have friends in America who say they played with toy guns like that when they were kids, so they understand him doing that.

    Daily Kos also had yesterday a list of views posted by people who say they are police (who knows) giving their view of events – and a nasty ugly vicious view it is too. I sincerely hope that the posters are not police – no-one with that much hatred inside them should be in charge of anything, never mind lethal weapons.

    There was also something yesterday about a woman assaulted by two police officers (in Tennessee?) – the officers will not be charged. [I tried looking it up on my search engine but to my horror lots of episodes of officers assaulting people came up; I gave up in despair]. I only saw the headline so don’t know any details – but there are so many cases lately that it seems that the good, kind, honest, reliable police officers that we would like to think are running and staffing our police forces, are having their departments taken over by people who are the very opposite of what they stand for. They must speak out and stop this – no-one else seems able to.

    (I too sign everything that I can and speak out whenever I can.).

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