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Fatal Shooting of Tamir Rice Was 'Reasonable,' Expert Reports Tell Prosecutors

A police officer fatally shot Tamir Rice in the park outside Cudell recreation center in Cleveland. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
A police officer fatally shot Tamir Rice in the park outside Cudell recreation center in Cleveland.

by Nick Castele

Two experts contacted by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office say Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann’s decision to shoot 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November was reasonable, according to reports released Saturday night.

“There can be no doubt that Rice's death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking,” S. Lamar Sims, a Colorado prosecutor, wrote in his report. However, he added, “Officer Loehmann's belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat.”

But Cuyahoga County prosecutors say they “are not reaching any conclusions from these reports,” and that the decision remains with a grand jury whether Loehmann should face charges in Tamir’s death.

A Rice family attorney, in an emailed statement, accused prosecutors of enlisting the experts in a “whitewash” of the case.

“These supposed ‘experts’—all pro-police—dodge the simple fact that the officers rushed Tamir and shot him immediately without assessing the situation in the least,” the statement reads. “Reasonable jurors could find that conduct unreasonable.” 

In a statement accompanying the release of the reports, McGinty criticized the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, the union representing non-supervisory officers. 

“The police union has taken a short-sighted position by refusing to cooperate with this investigation and others,” McGinty’s statement read, “making it more challenging to find answers and needlessly delaying the process of justice.”

Steve Loomis, the union president, responded on Sunday, saying officers have a right not to speak with investigators, the Associated Press reports.

Tamir was playing with an air gun at a Cleveland park on Nov. 22, 2014, when a 9-1-1 caller reported him to police. The caller said he wasn’t sure whether the gun was real, and also said during the call it was “probably fake.”

That information wasn’t relayed to police.

When a cruiser driven by Officer Frank Garmback pulled up next to the 12-year-old, Loehmann emerged from the passenger side and fired within seconds. Tamir died in the hospital early the following day.

The shooting led to protests in Cleveland and has been under investigation for nearly a year. This is the first update in the case since the Cuyahoga County sheriff’s office released its own investigation in June.

Also in June, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine ruled there was probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder and other offenses. Activists had brought the case to his courtroom by petition, a move allowable under Ohio law. But prosecutors did not act on Adrine’s decision.  

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.