A new report from an expert hired by Tamir Rice’s family claims that the 12-year-old African American boy had his hands in his pockets when he was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police last year.
The statement, released late Friday by the family’s attorneys, came in the same week as testimony from officers who said Tamir reached for the toy gun in his waistband before they opened fire.
They were the first public accounts from the officers — Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback — involved in the Nov. 22, 2014, shooting. A grand jury is currently considering whether either of them will face charges for Tamir’s death.
Tamir was shot by Loehmann outside a recreation center after police were informed of a man waving and pointing a gun. But it was discovered later that he had been holding a nonlethal weapon that shoots plastic pellets. The boy died a day after the shooting.
Loehmann said he repeatedly ordered Tamir, who looked to him “over 18 years old and about 185 pounds,” to “show me your hands.” Garmback was in the driver’s seat of the cruiser during the shooting and concurred that he saw what looked like an “adult” male pulling a real gun from his waistband.
“I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time,” Loehmann wrote 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,” he added.
But the recent report from Jesse Wobrock, an accident reconstruction expert who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of California Los Angeles, contradicts the officers’ accounts given under oath, further complicating a case shrouded in conflicting reports.
After reviewing news articles, medical records, documents from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and various other reports, including enhanced video stills of the incident released by the county prosecutor, Wobrock concludes that several points in the officers’ accounts are inaccurate.
Wobrock’s frame-by-frame analysis states that Tamir’s hands were in front of his body for a couple seconds while the officers remained in their cruiser. While the vehicle was still moving forward, Loehmann opened the passenger door; at this point, Tamir’s hands had moved into his jacket pockets.
Half a second later, Tamir moved his right shoulder and arm upward in a “defensive-type position”— a movement consistent with the bullet hole’s location in his outer jacket — and was shot.
According to Wobrock, Tamir performed the upward motion with his hands still in his pockets.
While previous reports contended that Tamir was shot within two seconds of Loehmann exiting the cruiser, parked within seven feet of the victim, Wobrock concludes that the accident actually occurred even more quickly. Judging by the elapsed time between frames, he says, the encounter took place over less than one second.
“Based on the timing of this event,” Wobrock writes, “Tamir Rice did not have enough time to perceive and react to any verbal commands. “It is clear that Officer Loehmann shot Tamir Rice immediately upon exiting the vehicle, such that Rice did not have enough time to take his hands out of his jacket pockets.”
The expert states with a “reasonable degree of scientific certainty” that the pellet gun was not visible to the officers prior to the shooting, and at no point in Tamir’s encounter with the police did he reach into his waistband, contrary to what Loehmann and Garmback wrote in their statements.
“We welcome and will review all credible, relevant evidence from any source,” Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a statement Saturday, noting that an investigation is the search for the truth.
In October two independent police experts conducted a legal review under the U.S. Constitution that concluded Loehmann had acted reasonably and used reasonable force in response to a threat posed by Tamir, a threat which Loehnmann thought was real.
“Even if Officer Loehmann was aware of Rice’s age, it would not have made his use of force unreasonable,” one of the two experts said in her report. “A twelve-year-old with a gun, unquestionably old enough to pull a trigger, poses a threat equal to that of a full-grown adult in a similar situation.”
After McGinty released the expert reports concluding the shooting was justified, the Rice family questioned the integrity of the investigation and asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed in McGinty’s place.