A judge in Cleveland on Thursday said that he he believes there is probable cause to charge a police officer with murder for the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy fatally shot while playing with a toy gun last year — a victory for local activists that does not, however, amount to formal charges being filed against the officers involved.
Activists and others had filed affidavits in Cleveland Municipal Court this week seeking charges against Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for Rice’s death.
Ronald B. Adrine, a Cleveland municipal judge, wrote in an administrative order released Thursday that in his opinion Loehmann should be charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. He also wrote that Garmback should be charged with negligent homicide.
However, Adrine noted in his order that his role was “advisory in nature,” stating that it is up to prosecutors to decide if they will file charges against the officers involved. Adrine said prosecutors would be notified about the charges for which he found probable cause.
“That decision is completely within the discretion of the City’s prosecuting attorney,” Adrine wrote.
Adrine was not available for comment Thursday, and a spokesman for the court said the judge’s “opinion speaks for itself.”
Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has previously told the Post that he plans to take the case to a grand jury in order to determine whether to charge the officers involved.
In a statement released on Thursday evening, McGinty said he still plans to bring the case to a grand jury in order to determine whether or not to charge the officers.
“This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go the the Grand Jury,” McGinty said. “Ultimately the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged.”
Rice was shot and killed by police on Nov. 22, and his death was one of several over the last year to prompt significant criticism over the way police officers use lethal force, particularly toward minorities.
Officers were summoned to the park when someone called 911 after seeing a young man with a weapon, which turned out to be Rice playing with a toy gun. Police officials said the officers who arrived feared for their lives, but video of the incident showed that Loehmann jumped out of the police cruised and shot Rice within two seconds of arriving.
(Warning: This video contains graphic content.)
The activists who filed affidavits with the court cite the surveillance video, which Adrine calls “notorious and hard to watch” in his order.
“After viewing it several times, this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly,” he wrote. He notes that the police car is still stopping when Rice is shot, and adds that neither officer approaches Rice on the ground for four minutes after the shooting.
While Adrine found probable cause to charge the two officers on multiple counts, he also said he felt there was not probable cause to charge either officer with aggravated murder.
“Judge Ronald Adrine heard the pleas of the Cleveland 8, took into consideration the affidavits provided and determined there was probable cause to issue a warrant for Officers Loehmann and Garmback,” the Rice family said in a statement. “We are grateful that the wheels of justice are starting to turn.”
Earlier this week, activists used an Ohio law stating that private citizens “having knowledge of the facts” can file affidavits alleging an offense.These affidavits call Loehmann’s lethal force “unreasonable,” and state that Garmback was complicit in Rice’s death.
The unusual strategy was used, activists said, because they were tired of waiting for the results of a government inquiry.
“It has been more than six months since his tragic death and, yet, the people still have no answers and no one has been held accountable,” the Rev. Dr. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, said in a statement Monday. “Today, citizens are taking matters into their own hands utilizing the tools of democracy as an instrument of justice.”
This post has been updated.