Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy, was shot to death by Cleveland police in 2014 while playing with a pellet gun. One officer was fired and another was suspended, no criminal charges were made against either of the officers. Eight years later, the U.S. Department of Justice has declined to reopen the federal probe into his death, according to the Associated Press.
Tamir Rice’s mother, Samaria Rice, was told about the decision today after she participated in a federal training event for prosecutors on investigating police misconduct.
This comes days after Ahmaud Arbery’s family was frustrated with the Justice Department for a proposed agreement with Travis and Greg McMichael, the men convicted for murdering Ahmaud, that would have prevented a federal hate crime trial. It was ultimately denied by a federal judge.
From the Associated Press:
Attorneys for Tamir’s mother Samaria sent four letters to top officials in the Justice Department and met with them last October in the hope of renewing federal interest in her son’s death, and again in December. One of the letters was signed by 50 scholars on constitutional, criminal and civil rights law who wrote that they believed the case must be scrutinized.
Kristin Clarke, the head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, wrote that the 2020 decision not to charge the officers stood. She said in her letter to Tamir’s family that “by no means should you view the department’s 2020 decision as an exoneration” of the police officer’s actions.
The Cleveland police department remains under court-ordered supervision after the Justice Department did an 18-month investigation and announced in December 2014 that officers had engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force and violating people’s civil rights.
Eight years ago, Rice was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center when he was shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann just seconds after he and his partner, Officer Frank Garmback arrived at the scene.
They came to the scene because a man told 911 that a “guy” was pointing a gun at people and said it was probably a juvenile and that the gun is most likely fake. That information never got to the officers, according to the Associated Press.
Rice’s death led to local and nationwide protests, calling for the officers to be charged and arrested.
In 2015, a grand jury did not bring criminal charges against the officers. Five years later, federal prosecutors said they would not bring federal charges against the two officers, citing that the video was of poor quality for them to see what happened.
More from the Associated Press:
To bring federal civil rights charges in cases like these, the Justice Department must prove that an officer’s actions willfully broke the law and are not simply the result of a mistake, negligence or bad judgment. It has been a consistently tough burden for federal prosecutors to meet across both Democratic and Republican administrations, with the Justice Department declining criminal charges against police officers in other high-profile cases in recent years, including in the deaths of Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.