CLEVELAND – An effort by activists to have a judge issue arrest warrants for two white police officers in the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old black boy holding a pellet gun was dismissed on Friday by an appeals court.
Ohio's 8th District Court of Appeals upheld a judge's ruling that said he lacked authority to charge the officers with crimes in the November shooting of Tamir Rice. Tamir's death was among several cases involving deadly force used on blacks that sparked national outrage and street protests.
A group of activists had submitted affidavits asking Municipal Judge Ronald Adrine to charge the officers based on a video showing an officer shooting Tamir within seconds of his cruiser stopping near the boy at a playground outside a recreation center.
The activists, calling themselves the Group of Eight, used a section of state law that says private citizens can file affidavits with a judge when they believe a crime has occurred. The law also says that if a judge determines there's probable cause, which is considered a low evidentiary hurdle, charges "shall" be filed.
The municipal judge ruled that affidavits submitted by the group and a video of the shooting were enough evidence to charge patrolman Timothy Loehmann with murder and charge Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, with misdemeanors. But the judge deferred the filing of charges to prosecutors, and the activists appealed.
County prosecutors have said a grand jury will determine if charges should be filed.
The grainy video, recorded from a surveillance camera, shows Loehmann, a rookie, fatally shooting Tamir within two seconds of a police cruiser driven by Garmback skidding to a stop. Police say the officers were responding to a 911 call about a man waving and pointing a gun and weren't told the caller said the gun could be a fake and the man could be an adolescent.
Police officials have said Loehmann ordered Tamir three times to put up his hands before he shot him. A former police union official said the officers had no way of knowing Tamir was carrying an airsoft gun that only looked like a real firearm.
Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, couldn't bear to live so close to where he was shot and temporarily moved to a homeless shelter to get away, a court filing said. She later found a new home thanks to the kindness and support of other people, her attorney Walter Madison said.
"It wasn't good for her emotional health to remain in that location where she could see the killing field of her son," he said in May.