The Justice Department will not reopen the investigation into the death of Tamir Rice | Ohio News

By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department said it would not reopen the federal investigation into the 2014 death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by Cleveland police, telling Tamir’s mother after that she had participated in a federal training event for state attorneys on investigating cases of police misconduct.

Lawyers for Tamir’s mother, Samaria, sent four letters to senior Justice Department officials and met with them last October in hopes of renewing federal interest in her son’s death, and then in December. One of the letters was signed by 50 constitutional, criminal and civil rights scholars who wrote that they believed the case should be reviewed.

The decision comes as the Justice Department comes under fire from civil rights groups over a proposed plea deal on federal hate crime charges in Georgia with the white men convicted of Ahmaud’s murder. Arbery, who was black, who burst into the limelight after a judge rejected the deal for one of the men. Attorney General Merrick Garland has promised to refocus the department’s priorities around civil rights and police reform.

Kristin Clarke, chief of the department’s civil rights division, wrote that the 2020 decision not to charge the officers stood. She said in her letter to Tamir’s family that “you should in no way consider the 2020 department’s decision as an exoneration” from the officer’s actions.

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The Cleveland Police Department remains under court-ordered supervision after the Justice Department conducted an 18-month investigation and announced in December 2014 that officers engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force and violate people’s civil rights.

Rice, who was black, was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center in Cleveland on November 22, 2014, when he was shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann seconds after Loehmann and his partner arrived , Officer Frank Garmback. The white officers had been dispatched to the rec center after a man was drinking beer and waiting for a bus called 911 to report a “guy” was pointing a gun at people. The caller told a 911 dispatcher that it was likely a minor and that the gun might be “fake”, although this information was never passed on to officers.

In late 2020, federal prosecutors said they would not press charges against the two police officers involved, saying the video of the shooting was too low quality for them to conclusively establish what happened. There have been no further prosecutions in this case. In December 2015, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the officers.

But the family has asked the Biden administration to take a fresh look.

To bring federal civil rights charges in cases like these, the Justice Department must prove that an officer’s actions deliberately broke the law and were not simply the result of error, negligence or poor judgment. It has always been difficult for federal prosecutors to meet in Democratic and Republican administrations, with the Justice Department declining criminal charges against police officers in other high-profile cases in recent years, including in the death of Eric Garner in New York. and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

In Rice’s case, the Justice Department said poor-quality surveillance video recorded in the area where the shooting took place prevented prosecutors from conclusively determining whether or not Rice was looking for her just toy gun. before being shot. The two officers who were investigated told authorities shortly after the shooting that Rice was looking for the gun before he was shot and that he was given several orders to show his hands. Loehmann was subsequently fired, Garmback was suspended.

In their letter, the legal scholars wrote that there was wiggle room in federal law and they believed the facts of the case weighed heavily in favor of opening a federal grand jury on the shooting. They said they believed there was enough evidence to show the officers deliberately violated Tamir’s civil rights.

“Curing a flawed state process – in this case, a process that appears to have been improperly tilted to protect local white law enforcement officials from liability in the shooting death of a young black child – is consistent with the basic purpose of federal civil rights laws. and very much within the DOJ’s mandate,” they wrote.

Clarke, in her letter, said the decision was made by career prosecutors who made it solely on the basis of the facts of law and without political influence. She thanked Samaria Rice for participating in their training for state attorneys general’s offices across the country on how to better prosecute misconduct.

“We know Tamir Rice’s death was a tragic loss and we continue to think of Mrs. Rice, her family and the community at large,” Clarke wrote. “Know that we remain committed to doing all we can to promote police accountability and reform.

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