Events mark 1 year since Cleveland boy shot by police

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

EXCLUSIVE: Mother of Tamir Rice, 12-year-old shot to death by Ohio police, still waiting for justice one year later.

CLEVELAND – Family members of a 12-year-old black boy who was carrying a pellet gun when he was fatally shot by a white police officer gathered Sunday for a vigil in Cleveland one year later. A vigil is set for Tamir Rice on the one-year anniversary of a fatal shooting by a police officer that left the 12-year-old boy dead. (Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer) CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland activists and religious leaders plan to hold a prayer vigil on the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice by a police officer.The frantic scene unfolded swiftly on Nov. 22, 2014: A police cruiser raced in front of a Cleveland recreation center and rolled up alongside 12-year-old Tamir Rice. As the crowd spoke and wrote about the sadness, anger and grief they had experienced since the youngster’s death, it was clear that emotions still ran high.

People lit candles and sang “This Little Light of Mine.” The vigil was among several events in Cleveland and in other cities marking the Nov. 22, 2014, shooting. Now, she’s at the center of a whirlwind — the national debate over deadly police encounters. “I was just a mom raising my kids,” she told the Daily News. “It’s a lot to take on, but I want change across this country. A grand jury began hearing evidence in the case last month to decide on an indictment, and Rice’s mother, Samaria Rice, could testify within a few weeks. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty has said he hasn’t reached any conclusions about charges. “Reaching a decision in this case has taken far too long,” she said in a statement Sunday. Tamir Rice has become the Emmett Till of Cleveland: an innocent victim whose demise ignited civil rights activism. “[Tamir] has to be the moral conscience of our work,” said Julia Shearson, who leads the Cleveland chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “If we can’t protect our children, and we can’t talk about why Tamir was killed so easily, we will not make much progress.” Police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback confronted Tamir when responding to a 911 call about a suspect in a park with a gun.

Although the original caller mentioned that the gun was probably a toy and the suspect was probably a kid, the police dispatcher did not give that information to the officers. Footage recorded by a surveillance camera showed Loehmann shooting Tamir within two seconds of a patrol car skidding to a stop just feet from the boy. Abady, the lead attorney for Rice’s family, told NBC News that McGinty’s handling of the case strikes him as “unorthodox” since those same reports are presumed to be part of the grand jury deliberations. “Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret,” Abady said Friday, adding, “We have concerns about the prosecution (process) taking so long.” By comparison, the decision to bring charges in other recent high-profile shootings involving black males and white officers has not been as drawn out.

Instead, the emotions are higher because of the time it has taken,” said Ward, of the New York-based civil rights law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff and Abady. In June, Shearson and seven other activists petitioned a municipal court judge to find probable cause to file for charges including murder against Loehmann and Garmback.

The airsoft-type gun that Rice was holding — which had been given to him by a friend in exchange for borrowing Rice’s smartphone — was missing the orange safety tip that would have indicated it wasn’t a real firearm. All of these factors would have played into Loehmann’s response — and whether he feared for his life, said forensic criminologist Ron Martinelli, who was a defense expert witness earlier this year in the trial against white Cleveland cop Michael Brelo. (Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 shooting deaths of two unarmed black passengers.) He believes the prosecutor is facing intense political pressure in investigating the case, which is under even more scrutiny because of Rice’s race and age. “You’ve got the prosecutor doing his due diligence, and he’s getting major push back by the family and the attorney of Tamir Rice,” Martinelli said. They could have said, ‘Come here, little kid.’ There’s nothing justifiable about that,” she says. “This is an absolute tragedy,” he said. “There’s no upside to this for anyone, including the officers, but the facts are the facts, and they won’t change, no matter what.” Loomis said Tamir had been pointing the toy gun at people and cars.

A spokesman for the county prosecutor hit back on claims that McGinty is biased in favor of police, citing his prosecution of Brelo, the white officer. “We have also charged about two dozen police officers on various charges since Tim McGinty took office, including very recently, misconduct by an officer who tipped a suspect that his business was about to be raided by law enforcement,” spokesman Joseph Frolik said in an email. “That officer is now in prison.” But some in the Cleveland community say disappointment and resentment have only been allowed to fester in the past year. If an indictment doesn’t happen and the case ultimately doesn’t go to trial, people will demand answers, Little said. “I know for certain there will be outrage,” he said. “People from all over the country and the world saw that video. As the police arrived, sliding 17 feet to a halt in the snowy grass, he stood up, walked toward them, appearing to pull a gun from his waistband, Loomis said. Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine concluded that the episode revealed a “systemic failure” in the practices and policies of the Cleveland police department. People are so desperate to spin this and change the facts that it’s absolutely inappropriate.” Rice also questioned prosecutor McGinty’s motives and his decision to release last month two expert reports which concluded the two officers acted reasonably.

In the name of Tamir, disparate segments of the community united to apply pressure on investigations into the police officers’ role in the child’s death. Legacy organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined forces with churches, synagogues and mosques that comprised the Greater Cleveland Congregations. Rice, who has become friendly with other parents of people killed by police, remembered her son as a talented athlete and artist with a bright future waiting for him. She has also filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Cleveland and the police officers, and has even considered one day running for political office. “I haven’t really prepared myself for them saying ‘no indictment,’” she said. “If that happens, the only thing I’m concerned about is moving to the next step.”

Ironically, in some ways the deaths of Ramon and Major have helped to mend the frayed relationship between residents and police in the wake of Tamir’s death. “You couldn’t blame that tragic incident on the police,” said Detective Lynn Hampton, president of Black Shield, the fraternal organization for African American police officers in Cleveland. “When kids start getting killed, all bets are off,” he said. “We need to do some work in our community because we can’t tolerate things like that.” Hampton, however, knows the city will be dealing with Tamir Rice’s legacy for the foreseeable future.

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