An Ohio judge said on Thursday that there was probable cause to arrest a police officer with murder for killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year.
Judge Ronald Adrine of the Cleveland municipal court said there was reason to prosecute Officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, manslaughter and reckless homicide.
Sufficient grounds to charge Officer Frank Garmback, Loehmann’s partner, with negligent homicide were also found. Garmback was present when Tamir was fatally shot.
However, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty paid no heed to the judge’s suggestion, saying that a grand jury should decide whether the charges should be brought against the officers.
According to The Guardian, McGinty said in a statement, “This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury. That has been the policy of this office since I was elected. Ultimately, the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged.”
Tamir was killed by Officer Loehmann in November 2014 after the police responded to a 911 call that someone in a local park possessed a handgun. Tamir, who was carrying only a pellet gun which the 911 caller had indicated probably wasn’t real, was shot twice by the officer.
In defense, police said that Tamir’s gun looked real and that he was asked three times to raise his hands. Tamir’s family contests that the video footage shows the police acted too quickly, according to BBC.
The judge shared the family’s sentiment, saying that the 12-year-old had “little if any time” to react to the officers’ instructions. Judge Adrine wrote, “Literally, the entire encounter is over in an instant,” citing that Tamir’s hands weren’t raised and that he made no “furtive movement.”
Walter Madison, lawyer for Tamir’s family, said that there was no reason to impede the prosecution.
He said, “We are very much relieved and it is a step towards procedural justice and people having access to their government.”
Judge Adrine’s decision came after community activities approached the court with a request to review Tamir’s death.
The victim’s family appreciated Judge Adrine’s decision. “We are grateful that the wheels of justice are starting to turn,” the statement said, as reported by TIME.
However, the decision has also caused anxiety among Tamir’s family’s supporters, who claim that there is no transparency in the format and that it prefers police officers in controversial cases.
Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown, an African-American, in August, was exonerated by a grand jury in St Louis, Missouri, last year. The officer responsible for the death of Eric Darner, another African-American individual, was not charged by a grand jury in New York.
President Barack Obama’s White House policing task force made a recommendation this year that independent prosecutors should investigate the deaths caused by law enforcement officers to prevent any conflict of interest among local authorities.
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