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Cleveland Officer Who Killed Tamir Rice Will Not Face Federal Charges

The garden outside Cudell Recreation Center became a memorial to the shooting. The gazebo was moved to Chicago where it was preserved and reconstructed "as a community space for care, dialogue, and public engagement," according to the Rebuild Foundation.  [Annie Wu / ideastream]
Memorial garden dedicated to the memory of Tamir Rice beside the gazebo where he was shot outside Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Updated: 8:10 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020

The U.S. Justice Department is closing its investigation into the police killing of Tamir Rice and will not file charges against two Cleveland officers involved in the incident six years ago.

According to a statement from DOJ, prosecutors could not find sufficient evidence that Officer Timothy Loehmann violated the 12-year-old’s constitutional rights or that Loehmann or Officer Frank Garmback obstructed justice.

Loehmann shot and killed Rice outside Cudell Recreation Center on Nov. 22, 2014. Garmback was driving the zone vehicle that stopped within a few feet of Rice beside a park gazebo. Rice had been playing with a toy pellet gun in the park.

The Rice family’s attorney was notified of the decision Monday, according to the statement.

Speaking on behalf of Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, attorney Subodh Chandra said the family learned of the Justice Department’s decision months ago when the New York Times reported federal prosecutors intended to close the case.

“Ms. Rice feels that it was blatantly disrespectful that she had to learn from the media that the Department of Justice had shut down the investigation,” Chandra said.

The DOJ said video of the shooting from a surveillance camera outside the rec center was grainy and did not provide adequate detail or audio of the shooting. The police car also blocked the camera so investigators could neither confirm nor refute Loehmann’s statement that Rice was reaching for a weapon before the officer fired, according to the statement.

DOJ said it could not prove, according to federal statutory standards, beyond a reasonable doubt Loehmann acted unreasonably or willfully.

“As noted above, an accident, a mistake, an officer’s misperception, or even an officer’s poor judgment or negligence does not constitute willful conduct that can be prosecuted under this statute,” the statement reads.

In 2015 a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the two officers. A year later, the city of Cleveland reached a $6 million settlement with the Rice family but did not admit any wrongdoing.

“I concur with the findings,” Loehmann’s attorney Henry Hilow told ideastream. “Same conclusion that the state, the county came with after its investigations, the United States government came, the Justice Department came with the same conclusion.”

Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.