CLEVELAND – A judge said Thursday that enough evidence exists to charge two white policemen in the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old black boy who was holding a pellet gun, a largely symbolic ruling because he can't compel prosecutors to charge them.
Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine ruled there's probable cause to charge rookie officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide or dereliction of duty in the November shooting death of Tamir Rice. And he ruled there's evidence to charge Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback, with reckless homicide or dereliction of duty.
The judge made his ruling after a group of activists submitted affidavits asking the court to charge the officers.
"This court reaches its conclusions consistent with the facts in evidence and the standard of proof that applies at this time," the judge wrote.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department recently completed its investigation and gave its file to the county prosecutor, whose staff is reviewing the case while preparing to take it to a grand jury to determine if criminal charges should be filed.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said Thursday that this case, like all other fatal use-of-deadly-force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury.
"Ultimately," he said, "the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged."
Footage from a surveillance camera shows Tamir being shot by Loehmann within two seconds of a police cruiser, driven by Garmback, skidding to a stop near the boy. The officers had responded to a 911 call about a man pointing and waving a gun at a playground next to a recreation center. Footage from the surveillance camera shows Tamir reaching for the gun, which was a realistic-looking toy, from his waistband when Loehmann shot him once in the abdomen.
Police officials have said Loehmann ordered Tamir three times to put his hands up, and Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeff Follmer said the officers had no way of knowing Tamir was carrying an airsoft gun that only looked like a real firearm.
The shooting of Tamir raised questions about how police treat blacks and spurred protests around the city.
The city released the surveillance video showing the shooting of Tamir.
Much of the footage showed what appeared to be a bored kid alone in a park on an unseasonably warm November afternoon. Tamir was seen pacing, occasionally extending his right arm with what appeared to be a gun in his hand, talking on a cellphone and sitting at a picnic table with his head resting on his arms.
But the gun wasn't real — it can be bought at sporting goods stores for less than $20. Tamir's was lacking the bright orange tip that is usually put on such weapons to indicate they're not real guns.
Tamir's family said it had seen the video of his shooting.
"It is our belief that this situation could have been avoided and that Tamir should still be here with us," the family said shortly after the shooting in a statement released by its attorneys. "The video shows one thing distinctly: the police officers reacted quickly."