Tim McGinty, the prosecutor of Ohio’s Cuyahoga County announced Monday that the grand jury has declined to bring criminal charges against Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the police officers who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014 outside of a local recreational center.
“Even in a situation as undeniably tragic as the death of [Rice], the state must be able to show that the officers acted outside of the constitutional boundaries set forth by the Supreme Court of these United States. Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, the state’s miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by the police.”
Samaria Rice, the child’s mother, had been informed of the decision prior to the press conference.
Rice had been playing in a snowy field near his home with a pellet gun when someone in the neighborhood called the authorities to make a complaint. Within moments of being approached by the police who assumed that the pellet gun was actually an armed weapon, they shot the child to the ground. They detained his older sister, Tajai, when she tried to intervene and find her brother after she found out he was shot.
As expected, McGinty made various insensitive and victim-blaming remarks about Rice regarding his death. McGinty repeatedly claimed that the boy’s size suggested that he was older than his age, despite the fact that the person who made the complaint to authorities suggested that Rice was a minor.
McGinty also argued that if Rice’s pellet gun had looked more like a toy, he wouldn’t have been killed. Most bizarre of all, the prosecutor claimed that the victim could have been anyone, even his own son or grandson—as if his own White privilege (and privilege of being in the police department) didn’t bar anything of the sort from happening.
The local community has had a long battle in the Rice case thus far. There was already a delay in the proceedings because the prosecutor had previously failed to give the grand jury all of the necessary information to secure the indictment that many were looking for in Rice’s death.
There is no question that Loehmann and Garmback are guilty for killing Rice and for using excessive force in this case. The two cops shot Rice within only seconds of encountering him in the field where he was playing, and despite holding the toy gun in his hands, Rice never acted violently or made any gestures to the cops indicating that he was a threat to himself or to anyone around him. Just because state law allows the officers to shoot innocent civilians in the way that they shot Rice, it doesn’t make their actions any more acceptable. More than that, it certainly doesn’t make their actions seem necessary or justified in the context of human decency.
So yes, the grand jury could have decided not to hold the officers at fault for their actions simply because the loopholes in state law gave them the so-called “right” to kill an innocent, unarmed child.
But its decision doesn’t mean anything because the terms that it incorporated into its decision didn’t account for the stigmas of danger and deviance that comes along with walking this earth as a Black person. It didn’t account for the fact that in America, Black children can never really be children—only individuals that symbolize White (and non-Black) fear, annihilation and neglect of Black lives. And it certainly didn’t account for the fact that because Loehmann and Garmack have been freed, scores of officials will attack and kill Black lives with impunity for years to come simply because their discomfort and racial privilege allows them to do so.
I’m tired. You’re tired. We’re all tired. Cuyahoga County, Imma seriously need y’all to do better.
Correction: This post previously listed Rice’s death as having occurred on December 22, 2014.