Civil rights leaders, community leaders and social media users expressed outrage Monday after a grand jury failed to bring charges against a Cleveland officer in the death of Tamir Rice.
Activists from New York to Cleveland to Chicago called on demonstrators to protest the decision.
Tamir, a 12-year-old Black child, was playing with a toy gun on a playground 13 months ago when he was gunned down by white Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann.
On Monday, a grand jury declined to bring charges against Loehmann and his training officer, Frank Garmback, who responded to a report about a man with a gun near a recreation center, writes USA Today. A dispatcher did not tell them the caller said it was likely a fake gun.
Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, one of the largest online civil rights organizations, said in a statement that the decision shows that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, “doesn’t honor Black life or seek to hold officers accountable.”
“Prosecutors continue to wield unchecked authority over Black communities,” Robinson said in the statement. A prosecutor pressing charges against an officer is a rarity that often only occurs with a mass swell of protests and mainstream media attention. Meanwhile, far too many prosecutors go out of their way to over-prosecute and incarcerate Black folks for far less damaging crimes.
“McGinty is no exception. He never intended to prosecute the officer who killed Tamir. Throughout a sham grand jury process, McGinty released questionable expert reports justifying Tamir’s killing and attacked his grieving family in the press. Over 150,000 ColorOfChange members joined Tamir’s mother in calling for a special prosecutor to take over.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, the longtime civil rights activist, released a statement calling the decision appalling.
“We are appalled that no indictment was returned in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, though we are not surprised given the behavior and tone displayed by prosecutor Tim McGinty’s all year. National Action Network has stood by Tamir’s family since the egregious killing that took young Tamir’s life and his mother joined us at a national march for police accountability last year in the nation’s capital. We will continue to support Samaria Rice as we call for a special national prosecutor to monitor such cases and we stand by the Rice family as they are dealt this blow during the holidays.”
NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said in a statement that the grand jury’s decision leaves a number of questions unanswered.
“The first of those questions is why the dispatcher failed to pass along to the responding officer essential details that the suspect was likely a juvenile, possibly waving a toy gun. The fatal shooting of Tamir Rice at the hands of a rookie officer might have been prevented if those crucial details had been provided.
“And has the value of the lives of our children been reduced to a decision made in less than two seconds? That is the amount of time it took for one officer to decide whether Tamir Rice should die….less than two seconds. Life and death decisions are made every day by police officers across the country, but the benefit of the doubt is often given in the preservation of white lives while the presumption of guilt, dangerousness and suspicion, time after time, is reserved for black lives.
“The tragedy of Tamir Rice must be seen with unblinking clarity through the lens of a series of incidents of police misconduct committed by members of the Cleveland Police Department over years. Cleveland has a long record of police misconduct subject to multiple and serial federal investigations. And it is against this ugly backdrop that its citizens are being asked to “just trust us.” We must now hold accountable in the courts not merely police officers, but also hold accountable in the voting booth those who are responsible for dangerous policing. Similarly, we need and the NAACP continues to call for a national standard for excessive use of force, police retraining and systems accountability.
After the decision was announced, the hashtags, “#TamirRice” and “#McGinty,” began trending on social media. Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson was one of many social media users sounding off on Twitter.
“The prosecutor today reminded us that he doubles as the defense attorney for the police,” McKesson tweeted.
Tamir’s family renewed their calls for the Department of Justice to bring federal charges against the officer, according to the Washington Post.
“It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment,” the family attorneys said. “Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified. It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire ‘experts’ to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation.”
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is currently conducting an independent investigation into Rice’s death.