Tamir Rice investigation turned over to prosecutors

Ohio sheriff's officials complete investigation into 12-year-old's shooting death

Sheriff’s officials have completed their investigation into the killing of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot by police while holding a fake gun, investigators said in a statement Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney said his office completed its nearly five-month investigation and turned over its findings to County Prosecutor Tim McGinty.

"My department has been diligently working on the investigation," Pinkney said in a brief statement. "We have concluded our work and I have turned it over to the prosecutor who will take it through the next steps."

Prosecutors will in turn present the case to a grand jury, which will decide whether the two officers involved in the shooting should face criminal charges in Rice’s death.

Tamir was shot by Cleveland police in November after a 911 caller reported "a guy with a pistol" that was "probably fake." His death occurred amid national unrest stemming from police shootings of unarmed black men, including the deaths of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.

Grand juries in both cases declined to charge the police officers involved. Their deaths helped spark a national conversation on race and policing.

Tamir, who was black, was shot Nov. 22 as he played at a park near his home. A caller had reported seeing a man brandishing a gun, but told the 911 dispatcher that the person may be a juvenile and that the gun may not be real. That information was not relayed to the officers who responded.

Video of the incident shows two officers driving up within feet of Tamir before shooting him at close range seconds later. Police have said both officers believed the boy was armed and advancing toward them.

It was later revealed that Timothy Loehmann, the 26-year-old rookie who police say fired the fatal shot, had been deemed unfit for duty at a previous police department due to poor performance and had shown signs of emotional instability.

Pinkney has faced criticism that the investigation, launched in January, has been slow.

“My department has conducted a fair, thorough and impartial investigation,” Pinkney told reporters last month, as the investigation was winding down. “We’ve pored over thousands of documents and conducted numerous interviews.”

A spokeswoman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office declined to comment, and said officials could not say how long it might take to present the case to the grand jury.

Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Assn., said the two officers at the center of the investigation did not provide any statements to sheriff's investigators. Loehmann, who shot Tamir as he stepped out of his patrol vehicle, and his partner, Frank Garmback, did provide an initial statement after the shooting, Loomis said.

Eight other police officers and dispatchers were interviewed as part of the inquiry, according to Loomis, who said his union "cooperated fully with their investigation."

The union faced criticism last month during the manslaughter trial of Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo, after several officers exercised their 5th Amendment rights and refused to testify. Brelo, who shot and killed two people at point-blank range after a wild police chase that sparked a federal investigation, was acquitted last month.

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

2:01 p.m.: Updated with comments from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office.

10:35 a.m.: Updated with information from the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Assn.

This article was originally published at 9:16 a.m.

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