Sunday, January 17, 2016

233.10 - Outrage of the Year 2015: the Tamir Rice case

Outrage of the Year 2015: the Tamir Rice case

Finally for today, we have my choice for Outrage of the Year 2015. Yes, there were numerous outrages, far more than I had the time or opportunity to mention, including at least one I truly regret not having gotten to.

Nonetheless, there is one story which has been a source of outrage across the year and needs mention here again: The murder, yes I said the murder, or 12-year old Tamir Rice by Cleveland cop Timothy Loehmann.

I actually first referenced this in December of 2014, a couple of weeks after Tamir was killed. In discussing - and being disgusted by - there being no charges in the death of Eric Garner, I said that

"Now we just have to wait to see what the excuse will be, why there will be no charges against the cop, in the murder of Tamir Rice."

The initial police reports - issued before the cops knew there was a video - were pockmarked with lies.

According to the initial story, the cops saw "a few people sitting underneath a pavilion." They saw Tamir pick up a gun from the table and put it in his waistband. Loehmann got out of car, said three times to Tamir to show his hands. Instead, he pulled the gun out and so was shot.

The video proved beyond doubt that none of that was true. When the cops - Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback - screeched up to him, Tamir was alone and standing outside the pavilion. Loehmann jumped out of the car and shot Tamir in - this is quite literal, based on a stopwatch comparison to the video - 0.8 seconds, obviously not enough time for him to have said anything three times.

In March, I described the city of Cleveland's response to a wrongful death suit filed by Tamir's family.

One hundred eleven times in that response, and yes I counted, the city used boilerplate language to say, in essence, "There's an investigation going on. We don't know yet what happened." And then that brief goes on to say that Tamir's getting shot was his own fault, in pretty much just those words. So "we have no idea what happened but it was all the victim's fault."

Tamir Rice
In June, I wrote that in a report filed just a week after Tamir Rice was killed, police said he would have been charged with "aggravated menacing" and "inducing panic" - that is, if they hadn't shot him to death less than two seconds after screeching up to him in the patrol car. But after what was then a month's long investigation, the Sheriff's Office had just released its results to the County Prosecutor's office - with no suggestion about any possible charges.

Around that same time, on June 11, a Cleveland Municipal Court Judge issued an advisory opinion that there was probable cause for Loehmann to face murder and other charges. And on June 13, prosecutors released documents saying there was no hard evidence that Loehmann said anything to Tamir before he shot him.

In July, I noted that the Cleveland Police Department in effect admitted that it never should have hired Timothy Loehmann. The two supervisors who hired him had been disciplined, found guilty of having "failed to adequately supervise and review an applicant's background investigation" which would have shown that Loehmann quit the Independence Police Department on his first day and was rejected by at least five other area police agencies before landing a job in Cleveland.

By October, I was writing about Cleveland prosecutors "laying the grounds to whitewash" the killings. Prosecutors hired two supposed experts who found - what a surprise - that the shooting was entirely justified because the only thing - the only thing - that mattered was if the cop thought - just thought - there was a threat, whether there actually was one or not. What's more, the cops' actions in screeching up to Tamir, in coming so close, in thereby creating the very confrontation, the very risk, that Loehmann said he was responding to, was, they said, irrelevant.

Around the end of November I was able to say that another expert hired by the family noted that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had found in an earlier case that a cop putting themselves in harm's way, a cop acting, that is, in a way Garmback and Loehmann did, is relevant to whether or not a shooting is "reasonable." The prosecutors hand-picked experts didn't even know the laws they were considering.

Finally, on November 30, more than a year after the shooting, prosecutors actually got around to taking statements from Loehman and Garmback.

With all that background, you could hardly be surprise at the outcome: On December 28, prosecutors announced there would be no charges. Loehmann goes free.

But wait, the outrage doesn't stop there.

The persecutor (that is not a typo) was quite open about the fact that he guided the grand jury to its conclusion. Indeed, his report to the grand jury and his later public statements sound more like a defense counsel brief than a DA impartially presenting evidence, right down to the report having headings like "Officers Loehmann and Garmback's subsequent statements are consistent with the evidence in this case" and "The incident conforms to the Cleveland Police Department's active shooter policy."

He was quoted later as saying "We don't second guess police officers."

Which goes to prove, finally, what we knew all along: This whole farce of a year-long "investigation," this whole sham of a grand jury "inquiry," was all orchestrated from the beginning for one and only one purpose: to let another killer cop walk. And dammit, if we are not going to "second guess police officers," we may as well just give them badge numbers starting with double-0, change the term from "police officer" to "Tonton Macoute" and be done with it.

It is a year-long outrage. It is the Outrage of the Year for 2015.

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