A judge ruled today that there's enough evidence to charge two Cleveland police officers in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed in November while holding a replica gun outside a recreation center.
As The Associated Press notes, the decision is largely symbolic, because Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine "cannot compel prosecutors to charge the officers."
Adrine said there was probable cause to charge rookie officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide or dereliction of duty. Probable cause existed to charge Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback, with reckless homicide or dereliction of duty, the judge said.
"This court reaches its conclusions consistent with the facts in evidence and the standard of proof that applies at this time," Adrine said.
In December, Tamir's death was ruled a homicide by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner. As the Two-Way's Krishnadev Calamur wrote at the time:
"Tamir suffered gunshot wounds to the torso and suffered injures of 'major vessel, intestines and pelvis,' the examiner's report said.
"Tamir, who was carrying a replica gun, was shot by rookie Officer Timothy Loehmann on Nov. 23."
The Associated Press adds:
"The shooting of Tamir, who was black, by a white officer raised questions about how police treat blacks and spurred protests around the city.
"The city released a surveillance video showing the shooting of Tamir, who was carrying an airsoft gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets.
"Much of the footage showed what appeared to be a bored kid alone in a park on an unseasonably warm November afternoon. Tamir was seen pacing, occasionally extending his right arm with what appeared to be a gun in his hand, talking on a cellphone and sitting at a picnic table with his head resting on his arms."
Adrine said, "The video in question in this case is notorious and hard to watch. After viewing it several times, this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly."
Adrine said in his ruling that officers Loehmann and Garmback let four minutes pass after the shooting without approaching Tamir as he lay wounded on the ground. Adrine said the video also shows that once Tamir's sister arrived on the scene, she was restrained from going to his side. Adrine said nearly eight minutes passed before paramedics arrived.
"It is difficult to discern, because of the quality of the tape, what, if any, first aid anyone renders to Rice during these eight minutes," Adrine wrote. "Nearly fourteen minutes ultimately expire between the time that Tamir is shot and the time that he is removed from the park."
Adrine said he reached his determination on cause for these charges by applying the standard of probable cause — "more than a mere suspicion but less than the quantum of evidence required for conviction."