The family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by Cleveland police officers in 2014, is campaigning for the Biden administration to reopen the federal investigation into the boy’s death.
According to Buzzfeed News, the Rice family is working alongside community organizers to pressure the Department of Justice to reopen its investigation as well as for a House Judiciary Committee to investigate why former President Trump quietly closed the investigation in December with no federal charges against the officers. (Spoiler: It’s probably because they were violent racists.)
“It means everything to me and my family that we get some justice for Tamir,” Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, said on a call with community organizers. “What that looks like for me is accountability, and an indictment, and a conviction. So I’m keeping the pressure on—we’re going to keep doing the work and we’ll keep everything going until they give me some answers.”
From Buzzfeed News:
The family’s lawyers sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland in April, highlighting reports that political interference had stopped progress on the case even as career attorneys at the agency requested to convene a grand jury. The Rice family attorneys urged that there was no statute of limitations that would prevent former Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann from being charged for violating Rice’s civil rights when he shot him in 2014.
Loehmann, who was fired from the police department for lying on his job application, asked the Ohio Supreme Court to review his termination last month.
The push to reopen the federal investigation and to charge Loehmann for violating Rice’s civil rights is seen as one of the last ways to hold the former officer accountable after a grand jury declined to criminally charge two police officers in 2015.
“We are mindful that no one can guarantee a conviction and that prosecutions against police officers present special challenges. But it is vital for [the] DOJ to establish that those who enforce our laws are subject to our laws,” the letter read.
The death of Tamir Rice and the lack of consequences for the officers involved was the thing that drove home to me just how fucked our laws around policing are. I was young, well, younger at the time, and sincerely believed you couldn’t get away with killing a 12-year-old because they were playing with a toy gun. Little did I know all you needed was a badge to justify the unjustifiable.
The family currently has the support of several members of Congress with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and three other representatives from Ohio sending a letter to Garland requesting he re-open the case back in April. Rep. Jamaal Bowman also sent a letter to Garland with the same request and was signed by 41 other members of the House.
“We fully support carrying out Samaria Rice’s appeal to the DOJ immediately, and we further urge that the results of the investigation be made public immediately upon completion,” the representatives wrote.
The change of leadership in the DOJ, its recent moves to investigate the killing of Ahmaud Arbery as a hate crime, and the fact it recently launched policing investigations in Minneapolis and Louisville due to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, has given the Rice family and their supporters hope that the case will be reopened.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” Subodh Chandra, an attorney representing the Rice family, said while discussing the new DOJ leadership on a call with organizers. “We know that there are going to be people in these positions who’ve devoted their lives to the cause of equal justice and ensuring there is solid police accountability.”
The campaign to reopen the case is mainly being done with the help of community organizers, with those involed telling Buzzfeed News that they weren’t aware of any national police reform groups helping with the effort. In recent months, Samaria Rice has publicly aired her frustrations with various high-profile activists and organizations such as the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Tamika Mallory, and civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.
“We don’t want or need y’all parading in the streets accumulating donations, platforms, movie deals, etc. off the deaths of our loved ones, while the families and communities are left broken,” Rice wrote in a statement back in March.
“The national organizers and lawyers who’ve had criticism of the comments that Miss Rice has made about the movement should put those criticisms aside and support and show up for her on her own terms in her fight toward getting justice for her son,” Molly Nagin, a community organizer working with the family, told BuzzFeed News. “Maybe if you build trust by showing up for her, some of those criticisms that she’s raising won’t be as applicable, but right now they’re very applicable.”
As of now, the Rice family has said the DOJ has yet to respond to their request.