A rookie Cleveland police officer responding to a 911 call jumped out of a cruiser and within seconds shot and killed a 12-year-old boy wielding what later turned out to be a BB gun, according to surveillance video released by authorities Wednesday.
Video of the fatal Saturday shooting of Tamir Rice, 12, by officer Timothy Loehmann, 26, was made public at the request of Tamir’s family. “It is our belief that this situation could have been avoided and that Tamir should still be here with us. The video shows one thing distinctly: the police officers reacted quickly,” reads a statement from the family, who also called on the community to remain calm.
The video’s release comes after days of protests in Cleveland, centered on Tamir’s death and also responding to the grand jury decision in the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson by a white officer.
Loehmann is white, according to public records. Officer Frank Garmback, 46, drove the patrol car. Both have been placed on administrative leave, under department policy.
“The release of this video is in no means an effort to try and explain the actions of the division of police or of the young man,” Deputy Police Chief Edward Tomba said at a news conference Wednesday — hours after about 200 people protesting the fatal shooting blocked traffic on a busy Cleveland street. “We are honoring the wishes of the family in releasing this and also in the spirit of being open and fair with our community.”
The grainy footage, which lacks audio, shows Tamir pacing up and down a sidewalk, swinging the gun in his hands, pointing it a few times and chatting on a cellphone.
A man shown sitting under a nearby gazebo made a 911 call, telling the dispatcher “there’s a guy in here with a pistol, pointing it at everybody,” according to audio of the call. The caller said the gun is “probably fake, but you know what, he’s scaring the s— out of people,” and later said, “I don’t know if it’s real or not.” He described Tamir as “probably a juvenile.” He eventually left the park.
But information about the gun possibly being fake wasn’t mentioned to the officers in a call to them about a young black male with a gun in a park.
Tamir eventually sat alone under the gazebo. The video then shows the police car pulling right up to the structure. Loehmann shouted from the car three times at Tamir to show his hands as he approached the car, Tomba said. Loehmann exited the car, and within two seconds, shot Tamir from about 10 feet away.
The gun turned out to be an Airsoft gun. Authorities had said it resembled a semiautomatic handgun and lacked the orange safety marker intended to signal that it’s a fake.
“Shots fired, male down, um, black male, maybe 20,” one of the officers radioed in. “Black hand gun.”
Within four minutes of the shooting, two other law enforcement officials arrived, and one performed first aid on Tamir, Tomba said. An ambulance came minutes later. Tamir died from his wound on Sunday.
Loehmann has been a Cleveland police officer since March. Garmback, a certified field training officer, joined the force in February 2008. They have both given statements and police are still looking for witnesses, including one other person shown walking with Tamir, officials said.
Results from the police investigation will be sent to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, which could ask for additional work. The evidence will be presented to a grand jury for possible charges, as is the policy with all fatal police shootings.
Last year, the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into the Cleveland Police over allegations of excessive and unreasonable deadly force.
In a statement earlier this week, Tamir’s family said: “While we request the release of the complete video, we also ask for the media to give our family privacy as we continue to grieve and learn about what happened.”
“We feel he did not deserve to be taken away from us,” the statement read.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams requested the public respect the highly-sensitive nature of the video. “This is 12 year old boy. We want people to view this video with that in mind,” he said Wednesday.
Within hours of the video’s release Wednesday, several Cleveland organizations called to demonstrate the shooting, according to the Plain Dealer. About 200 protesters had gathered in a city square the night before and spilled into the street in a mostly peaceful protest, the paper reported.
By early Wednesday night, a handful of protesters had come out, but the video’s release didn’t spark immediate mass demonstrations.
— Evan MacDonald (@evanmac3) November 26, 2014
Need to head down right now! Please RT and spread the word, rally at Cleveland City Hall, e. 6th and Lakeside at 4pm! #TamirRice
— Puncture The Silence (@PTS_CLE) November 26, 2014
— Nick Foley (@nfoley1418) November 26, 2014
“Please protest peacefully and responsibly,” Tamir’s family statement read. “Your prayers, kind words and condolences have meant so much to us. We understand that some of you are hurt, angry and sad about our loss.”
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said Wednesday that Tamir’s death wasn’t connected to what was happening in Ferguson.
“Whether there was Ferguson there or not, that doesn’t matter to me. What mattered to me was it happened in Cleveland, and it happened to a child,” Jackson said. “It’s about the child, the loss of his life, the grieving of his family, and what we have to do as a community.”
Alice Crites contributed to this post, which has been updated multiple times.