FEDERAL criminal charges will not be brought against two Cleveland police officers in connection with the killing of teenager Tamir Rice who was playing with a pellet gun.
The Department of Justice on Tuesday announced that video footage of the 2014 shooting of the 12-year-old was too low quality for prosecutors to definitively decipher what occurred.
In a statement on the decision, the department did not condone the cops’ actions, but said that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute the officers on federal criminal civil rights.
Rice was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center in Cleveland, Ohio, when white police Officer Timonthy Loehmann shot and killed him seconds after getting to the scene.
Loehmann and Officer Frank Garmback were dispatched to the recreation center after a man drinking beer as he waited for a bus called 911 and said a “guy” was pointing a gun.
The caller said the person appeared to be a juvenile and that the gun could be “fake,” but the dispatcher did not pass that information onto Loehmann and Garmback.
The officers said that Rice reached for the toy gun before he was shot and that they demanded several times that he put up his hands.
Prosecutors said that Rice’s arm positions in the grainy video appeared to be near his waist, but “his hands are not visible in the video and it cannot be determined from the video what he was doing.”
The video, which does not have sound, “does not show detail or perspective,” prosecutors said.
As a result, prosecutors were not able to determine whether Rice was or wasn’t reaching for the pellet gun before he was shot, the Justice Department said.
The Rice family’s attorney, Subodh Chandra, called the department’s process “tainted.”
“It’s beyond comprehension that the department couldn’t recognize that an officer who claims he shouted commands when the patrol car’s window was closed and it was a winter day is lying,” Chandra said.
“The Rice family has been cheated of a fair process yet again.”
The Justice Department had to prove that the cops willfully broke the law instead of being negligent, making a mistake or using bad judgment, in order to push federal civil rights charges.
It is a high burden of proof to meet, and the department has declined criminal charges against officers in several major cases recently.
Rice’s case helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded the year prior to the Nov. 22, 2014 shooting.
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