A Cleveland judge decided on Thursday that there is probable cause to file criminal charges against the police officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney who represents the Rice family, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Judge Ronald Adrine of the Cleveland Municipal Court issued a statement of probable cause that could lead to criminal charges against the officers. In a statement, the Rice family thanked Crump and others who had helped bring about Thursday's developments.
"We are grateful that the wheels of justice are starting to turn," the family said.
At least one of the cops, Timothy Loehmann, could be charged with murder. The other officer, Frank Garmback, could face lesser charges, such as involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty.
Despite the statement of probable cause, no formal charges have been filed yet. Whether the officers are ever indicted depends on Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, according to Judge Adrine’s opinion.
McGinty indicated on Thursday that he intends to take the case to a Grand Jury.
“This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the Grand Jury,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “That has been the policy of this office since I was elected. Ultimately, the Grand Jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged.”
Officer Loehmann shot and killed Tamir in a park near his home on Nov. 22. He and Garmback had responded to a report of a person with a gun, though the caller said that the individual was likely a child and the gun likely a toy.
Video from the scene shows that Loehmann shot Tamir just seconds after arriving, and that he and his partner tackled and handcuffed Tamir’s 14-year-old sister Tajai. Neither Loehmann nor Garmback appear to have administered aid to the dying child.
After Tamir’s death, it was revealed that Loehmann had a history of problems as a police officer and had been asked to resign from a previous post. The city has said it was unaware of Loehmann’s rocky employment history when he was hired.
Thursday’s statement of probable cause comes after community leaders on Tuesday invokes a rarely-used Ohio law that allows people to request criminal charges against others and asked the judge to consider the charges against members of the Cleveland Police Department.
In a statement released on Thursday, Tamir's family thanked their attorneys and the activists who asked the Cleveland Municipal Court to charge the officers, saying they had "provided a blueprint for the nation to follow in addressing many of the relationship problems between African-Americans and law enforcement."
"We are grateful that the wheels of justice are starting to turn," the Rice family said.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson also issued a statement on the judge's decision.
"At the city’s request the County Sheriff conducted and completed an investigation of the facts surrounding the shooting of Tamir Rice and submitted his findings to the County Prosecutor," the mayor's statement read. "The City Prosecutor has referred Judge Adrine’s entry to the County Prosecutor for review and to determine whether charges will be issued."
Neither the Cleveland Police Department nor the city's police union immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the whole statement of probable cause here.
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