Experts for Tamir Rice's Family Say Shooting Was Unreasonable

Family and supporters held a vigil for Tamir Rice last month.
Family and supporters held a vigil for Tamir Rice last month. (David C. Barnett / ideastream)
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Samaria Rice testified Monday afternoon before the grand jury weighing whether to indict the police officer who fatally shot her 12-year-old son, Tamir, family attorneys say. 

Her testimony comes just days after her attorneys released to the public a pair of reports it had commissioned from law enforcement experts. Those reports say the shooting was unreasonable. These contradict the findings of three expert reports ordered by prosecutors – all of which said a Cleveland police officer acted reasonably when he shot the 12-year-old boy last November.

Also this past weekend, prosecutors released a frame-by-frame breakdown of surveillance video showing the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice.

ideastream’s Brian Bull talked with reporter Nick Castele.

BULL: Nick, explain this release of video frames first, was there any new information here?

CASTELE: “No, these are videos that have already been released, but what this report does is it compares two videos side-by-side and frame-by-frame. It starts at about eight minutes after a 9-1-1 caller reported seeing someone with a ‘pistol’ outside Cudell rec Center.  That ‘pistol’ turned out to be a toy pellet gun, as we all know now. We see, in the videos, we see Tamir Rice sitting at table in the gazebo in the park, we see him stand up. We see the police cruiser approach, and, as an officer gets out of the passenger side and fires, we see Tamir Rice fall to the ground. We also see Tamir Rice’s sister being taken to the ground by police as she runs toward the scene. Now prosecutors say this is all part of the evidence that they’ll be bringing to the grand jury.”

BULL: “Tamir Rice’s family has released two expert reports. Both say police did not act reasonably. How did they explain this?”

CASTELE: “Both reports say that police should have assessed the situation first. They say it was unreasonable for police to drive onto the grass, within feet of Tamir, and to shoot within two seconds, without first taking stock of what was happening and trying to de-escalate the situation. One report called this a ‘reckless tactical decision.’ The reports also zero in on the video. You know, the sheriff’s investigation had said that the video showed Tamir Rice pulling up an outer garment with hands near his waist in the moments right before Officer Timothy Loehmann fired. Well, the video is grainy and these experts for the family say it’s not so clear-cut. One of the experts says it doesn’t show definitively that Tamir Rice was doing something that could reasonably be interpreted as a threat.

“The experts also say police should have rendered aid after the shooting. The police did call for EMS, but it was nearly four minutes before an FBI agent arrived and performed first aid. The agent happened to be near the scene and was a registered paramedic. Now, according to the sheriff’s investigation, the officers didn’t have medical supplies on them and didn’t have medical training beyond CPR.”

BULL: “Now these expert reports differ strongly from the expert reports released by the prosecutor. What’s different about them?”

CASTELE: “One report from prosecutors referred to these questions of de-escalation as ‘Monday-morning quarterbacking.’ This expert said one needs to focus in on that moment when the officer decides to shoot. But the family’s reports very strongly disagree with this idea, saying the circumstances surrounding the shooting, the speed with which it happened, those are critical to making a judgment on reasonableness. Family experts, they also said it would be mistaken to try to figure out what was going on inside the officers’ head during this shooting, because the officers didn’t speak to sheriff’s investigators.”

BULL: “Now Nick, just who are these experts that the family retained?

CASTELE: “Both are former police officers and now law enforcement consultants who work out of California. Jeffrey Noble is one, he’s a former deputy police chief in Irvine, California. And Roger Clark worked for many years in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Both are consultants now and have served as expert witnesses in other cases.”

BULL: “Has the prosecutor said what he’s going to do with these reports from the family?”

CASTELE.: “Prosecutor Timothy McGinty did put out a short statement this weekend, said they had earlier invited the family’s attorneys to bring forward evidence and witnesses in this case. The statement didn’t directly say McGinty show this evidence to the grand jury, but it did somewhat imply that. He said, “Our stated policy in all use of deadly force cases is to welcome all relevant evidence and let the Grand Jury evaluate and make the decision.” 

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