Cleveland police release video at request of 12-year-old boy’s family that shows moment squad car pulls up to child wielding fake toy gun
Mark Guarino in Cleveland
Wednesday 26 November 2014 18.08 EST
The Cleveland police department released surveillance footage on Wednesday showing the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy in a city park on Saturday. The video, released in both real-time and frame-by-frame versions, shows Tamir Rice hanging out in a park by himself, occasionally pointing what was later revealed as a BB gun in different directions, including at a passerby whose likeness is blurred.
After talking on his phone and kicking up snow, Rice sits inside a gazebo until a squad car pulls up. Rice then stands and appears to point the gun at two officers moments before they shoot him in the torso. Because the squad car conceals Rice’s body, it is unclear at what point he is shot by police. A red circle in one of the videos shows his raised arm above the car with the gun in his hand. He died the next day.
Deputy Police Chief Edward Tomba told reporters that the video was released at the request of the Rice family and that it is “in no means an effort to try to explain the actions of the division of police or of the young man”.
Police also released audio of the two-minute-plus 911 call that led to the shooting. “He keeps pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people,” the dispatcher says.
Family members say Rice was a peace-loving boy who enjoyed playing basketball and did well at school. Latonya Goldsby, 39, his first cousin once removed, says the toy gun, a replica of a semi-automatic pistol, was not Rice’s but was given to him by a friend at the Cudell Recreation Center where both boys had gone to play basketball that afternoon.
“Our family has been raised to not play with any guns. We as mothers don’t buy our children guns, even water guns,” Goldsby says. As for the gun, she says: “I know for a fact it’s not his.”
Goldsby says Tim Kucharski, the family lawyer, has been in contact with the friend, who has not yet been identified.
In a public letter released on Tuesday, Samaria Rice and Leonard Warner, Rice’s parents, asked police to release the video. “We feel the actions of the patrol officer who took our son’s life must be made public,” they wrote. “Though the hurt our family feels is too painful for words to describe, we still have faith in the justice system.”
Police named the officers involved in the incident as Timothy Loehmann, 26, and Frank Garmback, 46. Tomba said Loehmann was the officer who fatally shot Rice. Tomba said Loehmann told Rice three times through the car window to raise his hands. The gun was stripped of its bright orange marker that signified it only shot pellets.
Goldsby said Rice and his family moved to Cleveland’s west side a year ago and that he spent the majority of his time outside school playing basketball at the recreation center. “He always loved to play basketball. He wanted to be a professional basketball player, that was one of his dreams,” she said.
He was the youngest of four children and was not known as a troublemaker in school, where he earned As and Bs and pursued drawing, another passion. Although Warner was estranged from the family, Rice was close to his mother, two sisters and brother, as well as his grandmother who died in October 2011. “That was hard on Tamir. He was her baby,” Goldsby said.
Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson, police chief Calvin Williams, and other city officials held a three-hour community forum at the Cudell Recreation Center on Tuesday in front of about 300 people. Despite occasional jeers from the audience – including one woman yelling the meeting was “a shame and a disgrace” – the forum was largely peaceful. Williams said that in order to reduce the number of complaints against his department, police officers will be required to wear body cameras by late January. There will also be a new community policing program that will focus on youth, he said.
“I’m committed to having the best police department for you and our city. That’s not going to happen overnight, and that’s not to say we don’t have a good police department already. But there’s always room for improvement,” he said.
Shelly Gracon, a community activist, said the news of Rice’s death and subsequent street unrest has impacted kids Rice’s age who spend time at the park.
“You could feel the heaviness of the space because of what had happened,” she said. “I’m getting an overall sense people want to come together in addressing this and trying to figure out ways to come at this so there is some systemic change and accountability. We had a rough weekend.”
The community forum brought up the general theme of excessive force by Cleveland police and often referenced the 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams who were gunned down by police following a 20-mile car chase involving 62 police cruisers. An investigation found that police fired 137 bullets into the car even though the couple did not have a gun.
The US Department of Justice launched an investigation into the Cleveland police department based on the incident and a report is still pending. Dean Valore, a former assistant US attorney assigned to civil rights legislation for Ohio, says that it is the second investigation of the department over the last decade. The procedure with such investigations typically involves the municipality promising in writing that it will implement changes recommended by the DOJ, which Cleveland did following the first report.
Although Valore says it is “not unheard of” for two reviews to happen in such a short time window, “it is a little remarkable that they are off track again and need this review.”
“In [the Rice] case, we don’t know what happened yet, we don’t know if the use of force was justified or not justified, but I guarantee you this incident will come into their scope of their investigation and it will be analyzed for sure,” he said.