Civil rights activists plan to invoke a seldom-used Ohio law and ask a judge for murder charges against two police officers who gunned down 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
The investigation into the fatal Nov. 22 shooting by Cleveland police was handed over to the prosecutor, but community leaders and the boy’s relatives don’t trust that officers Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann will face charges.
“The writing is on the wall,” said Walter Madison, an attorney for Tamir’s family. “If you look at every other instance, it ends up unfavorable to the families.”
Activists plan to take “matters into their own hands” by filing citizens’ affidavits for probable cause and asking a judge to issue arrest warrants for the two officers’ arrests.
“We are still waiting for the criminal justice system to enact justice in the name of Tamir Rice,” the Rev. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. “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.”
Ohio is one of several states that allow residents to request an arrest without approval from police or prosecutors.
Madison there is basically no precedent for the request because he could find no other cases where an Ohio judge had ordered the arrest of a police officer based on a citizen complaint, but he said most previous complaints had been frivolous.
Prosecutors have been criticized in recent months for offering conflicting evidence in grand jury hearings on police killings, rather than presenting only their strongest evidence to obtain a conviction.
“Here we are taking some control of the process as citizens,” Madison said. “We are going to participate without even changing the law.”
Tamir was shot while playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park after a 911 caller reported him waving a weapon that was “probably fake.”
Officers pulled up alongside a shelter was Tamir was sitting, jumped out of the patrol car, and opened fired within two seconds.
The officers forced the boy’s 14-year-old sister to the ground, handcuffed her, and made her sit in the back of the patrol car as her brother bled to death just steps away.
The video shows the officers stand by without rendering aid to the mortally wounded boy.
Police have defended the officers’ actions as justified, and a union spokesman denounced the activists’ attempt to charge the officers.
“It is very sad how miserable the lives of these self-appointed ‘activists, civil right leaders, and clergy’ must be,” said Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis. “I can’t imagine being so very consumed with anger and hatred.”
“Civilized society cannot permit the rule of law to be subverted by mob rule,” Loomis added. “Trying to coerce public officials into filing a criminal charge under direct/indirect threat of mob rule is a very dangerous game.”
Watch this video report posted online by CNN: