The Cleveland police officers who sparked nationwide protest after shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice have given prosecutors their side of the story for the first time.
Investigators have been asking the officers for statements on the shooting for over six months, though the officers are under no obligation to do so.
In a signed statement released by Cuyahoga County prosecutors on Tuesday, Officer Timothy Loehmann said he and his training officer Frank Garmback were responding to a 911 call about someone waving a gun at people at a local park on November 22, 2014, and that he saw Rice reach into his waistband.
Rice was carrying an airsoft pellet gun, which Loehmann said he thought was a real gun.
“With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out,” Loehmann said in his statement. “I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active.”
Loehmann said that Rice “appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds.” Garmback said in his statement that he thought the suspect was “over 18 years old.”
A dispatcher failed to tell the officers that the suspect may have been a child playing.
Subodh Chandra, an attorney for the family of Tamir Rice, has blasted the officers’ statement as unfair and inconsistent.
“No ordinary citizen who is under investigation would be afforded this special treatment … Submitting self-serving, unsworn written statements—rather than appearing live before the grand jury so that the officers’ versions of events are subject to vigorous cross examination—shows that these officers know their story will not withstand real scrutiny,” Chandra said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Chandra further asserted that the officers’ account of the incident was “physically impossible.”
Surveillance video from the shooting shows Loehmann and Garmback’s police car pulled within feet of Rice and, within seconds, Loehmann got out of the squad car and fired on Rice.
The officers said in their statements that they continuously shouted for Rice to raise his hands, although Garmback said he wasn’t sure if the police car windows were up.
In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Rice’s death ignited another nationwide outcry of police violence against unarmed black people across the US.
A grand jury will determine if Loehmann will face criminal charges.
Here’s the full statement from Loehmann:
And Chandra’s response:
For the prosecutor to allow police officers who are supposed to be targets of a criminal investigation to submit unsworn statements in response to grand-jury subpoenas requiring live testimony is yet again a stunning irregularity that further taints these proceedings. No ordinary citizen who is under investigation would be afforded this special treatment.
The officers’ statements do not establish that their conduct in shooting Tamir Rice was reasonable. Submitting self-serving, unsworn written statements—rather than appearing live before the grand jury so that the officers’ versions of events are subject to vigorous cross examination—shows that these officers know their story will not withstand real scrutiny. The officers’ statements are inconsistent with one another and the objective video footage contradicts the officers’ claims. Loehmann, for example insists that he observed things and took action that would have been physically impossible for any human being to do in the under 2 seconds it took him to shoot a 12-year-old child. While Loehmann claims to have issued at least three commands in under two seconds, Garmback admits the windows to the police vehicle were up, demonstrating that his partner’s claims are false.
And of course, neither officer explains why they left a 12-year-old boy bleeding and dying on the ground after shooting him. The Rice family hopes that the grand jury will see through this and seek justice for Tamir with an indictment.
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