After a year of investigation, a grand jury, on Monday, chose not to indict Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the Cleveland patrolmen involved in the shooting and death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year.
According to WKYC, a local Cleveland news station, a man called 911 on Nov. 22, 2014 to report “a guy” pulling out a gun and pointing it at people at a playground at a recreation center.
“The guy keeps pulling it out,” he tells 911. “It’s probably fake, but you know what, he’s scaring the [expletive] out of [inaudible]…He’s sitting on the swing right now, but he keeps pulling it in and out of his pants and pointing it at people. Probably a juvenile, you know?…I don’t know if it’s real or not, you know?”
The caller couldn’t figure out if the person was an adult or a kid. We know what he was. That person was a young boy. We know that young boy was Tamir. We know Tamir was playing with a gun. And we know that that call set off a chain of events that would, moments later, not only lead to Tamir’s death, but a systemic resolution that killing Tamir was in no way shape or form a crime despite the law pointing otherwise.
Ohio is an open carry state
Open carry refers to laws that allow people to carry a firearm in plain sight. In the United States, there are only six states that ban openly-carry: California, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina. In fact, the Associated Press reported that on New Year’s Day 2016, Texas will become the 45th state to legalize it.
Ohio passed it’s open-carry law, R.C. 9.68, in March 2007. Previously, individual municipalities were allowed to decide whether it was legal to carry or conceal a handgun, which caused discrepancies that would position Ohioans as potentially committing a crime by moving from one jurisdiction to another. Passing a state law that allowed open carry was a matter of convenience.
According to the law, Tamir was not committing a crime. It is not illegal to carry a gun, let alone in public. Yet, gymnastic measures have been made to suggest otherwise.
During a press conference following the non-indictment, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Matthew Meyer said, “Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice had spent several hours, on Nov. 22, 2014, playing at the Cudell Recreation Center park with a replica firearm, an airsoft pistol that shot plastic BB’s and which closely resembled a Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol.”
Again, nowhere in Ohio state law does it criminalize carrying a gun, let alone a toy that resembles one. Meyer’s is stating an arbitrary fact that, based on the law he is responsible for upholding, has absolutely no grounding, and in no way supports that Tamir committed a crime. It does point to the fact that police officers committed a crime by killing a boy for doing nothing wrong.
This is especially insulting because, Loehmann was, by police standards, unfit for duty in the first place.
Loehmann, the officer who shot Tamir, has a record that points to him being unfit for duty long before the day he killed Tamir.
According to the Cuyahoga County Sherriff’s Department records, which were only released in January because of public pressure, Loehmann failed the department’s written cognitive exam. Recruits to the department must score a 70 percent on the exam and Loehmann didn’t come close. In September 2013, he scored a 46 percent on the test. By contrast, he did pass the physical exam, proving he was able to do at least 27 pushups per minute and run 1.5 miles in less than 16.5 minutes. Ultimately his application was rejected, but why was he later able to join the force?
Loehmann had a history, prior to the September 2013 exam of being incompetent. According to BuzzFeed News, the officer was recommended for termination by a human relations director for the Independence, Ohio police department for emotional instability. In a letter, found in Loehmann’s previous personnel file that Cleveland police did not review, Deputy Chief Jim Polak observed that Loehmann could not “follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.”
More critically, however, Polak made a damning point about Loehmann that has been conveniently overlooked. Quite simply, “I [Polak] do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”
Loehmann’s observed irreparable incompetence, which had been noted for years, was evident from the moment he stepped on the scene.
According to video footage, Tamir was standing at the edge of a gazebo when Loehmann, in his patrol car, rolled up, door open, and shot Tamir in less than two seconds. It has been claimed that Loehmann yelled three times for Tamir to put his hands in the air. There is (in)conveniently no audio.
But even without audio, is unfathomable that any adequate time was given to Tamir to respond to anything that was happening. Blinking, a simple act that everyone does unconsciously, takes, according to a Harvard University “database of useful biological numbers,” can take as long as .4 seconds. If blinking takes nearly half a second, how is it not a case of unquestionably gross negligence for an officer to believe anyone—let alone a 12-year-old child—would have the capacity to take in orders to put their hands in the air and then actually do it?
Loehmann demanded of Tamir superhuman processing capacities and used deadly force when this boy did not respond accordingly. Add to this the fact that Loehmann and Garmback did not provide Tamir CPR–an FBI agent would three to four minutes later–and it is difficult not only to find that Tamir’s death was preventable, but that law enforcement officers chose not to give his life a chance.
This was a legally unjustified extrajudicial killing, and that fact does not change because a jury decided not to indict. What does it say about our criminal justice system when law enforcement officers do not follow the law, are able to do operate outside the law itself, without recourse? It means there is something morally and ethically bankrupt about the law, those who enforce it, and who are said to oversee it is abided by from all corners of the system. There is something corrupt about a system that will find every excuse not to abide by it’s own rules.
Tamir was killed for no reason other than the fact that someone could. His death was callously arbitrary, and that is terrifying. Not only is this one of the key ways racism operates, but if a little boy could be killed for simply playing with a toy, and the state decried there was no wrongdoing to be found, make no mistake, we are all susceptible to the same fate.