CLEVELAND (AP) — A police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old boy who had a pellet gun within two seconds of his cruiser pulling up and the officer allegedly ordering the boy three times to put up his hands.
The city released a surveillance video on Wednesday that shows the shooting of Tamir Rice, who was carrying an airsoft gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets.
Much of the footage shows what appears to be a bored kid alone in a park on an unseasonably warm November afternoon. Tamir is seen pacing, occasionally extending his right arm with what appears to be a gun in his hand, talking on a cellphone and sitting a picnic table with his head resting on his arms.
The gun wasn’t real. It can be bought at sporting goods stores for less than $20. Tamir’s was lacking the orange safety indicator usually found on the barrel and, from a distance, was indistinguishable from a real firearm.
The patrol officer who shot Tamir was identified Wednesday as Timothy Loehmann, a 26-year-old rookie who began his career in Cleveland on March 3. He previously spent five months in 2012 with a department in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, but four of those months were in that city’s police academy.
Loehmann’s partner that day was identified as Frank Garmback, 46. He has been with the department since 2008. Both are on paid administrative leave pending a decision by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office whether to pursue any criminal charges.
The video police showed Wednesday had no sound and was stilted, showing about two frames per second. What is striking about it is the speed at which the shooting occurred.
At one moment, Tamir is sitting at a picnic table in a gazebo. He stands and a police car zooms into the frame from the right and stops on the grass, just a few feet from Tamir. The passenger door opens and Loehmann shoots Tamir before Garmback can get out the driver’s side door.
It’s unclear how far Tamir was from Loehmann when the officer shot him, but Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said Wednesday that it was less than 10 feet.
The low-resolution video shows Tamir reaching to his waistband and then bending over after being shot. His body is mostly obscured by the patrol car when he falls to the ground. Garmback can be seen walking around the car and kicking what is said to be the airsoft gun away from Tamir.
Tomba told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that an FBI agent who was working a bank robbery detail nearby arrived within a few minutes and administered first aid to Tamir. Paramedics arrived three minutes later. The boy died on Sunday at a Cleveland hospital.
Tomba said the city was releasing the video at the behest of Tamir’s family.
“This is not an effort to exonerate. It’s not an effort to show the public that anybody did anything wrong,” Tomba said Wednesday. “This is an obvious tragic event where a young member of our community lost their life. We’ve got two officers that were out there protecting the public that just had to, you know, do something that nobody wants to do.”
On Saturday, a person had called 911 about a male pointing a gun at others at the park. The caller told the 911 dispatcher that the gun was “probably fake,” then added, “I don’t know if it’s real or not.”
Tomba would not discuss statements the two officers gave after the shooting, saying they were part of the investigation. Nor would he discuss details of the radio conversation between the officers and a dispatcher except to say they were apprised that they were on a “gun run.”
David Malik, one of the attorneys representing Tamir’s family, said Wednesday that he hoped the shooting of Tamir would lead to reform. He cited Cincinnati, where he said the police department, police union and the community worked collaboratively.
“Hopefully, incidents like this won’t occur again,” Malik said.
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