In Thursday’s ruling, Judge Ronald Adrine found probable cause to prosecute Cleveland officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and dereliction of duty for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The Cleveland municipal judge also announced grounds to prosecute Officer Frank Garmback, Loehmann’s partner, who was at the scene, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. Judge Adrine wrote that he was “still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly,” after reviewing the surveillance video.
After waiting nearly seven months for a decision, the Rice family considered the ruling a victory. “We are very much relieved and it is a step towards procedural justice and people having access to their government,” said Walter Madison, one of the Tamir family’s attorneys, to the Guardian. Madison said the ruling communicates that “the police are public servants and not the public’s master.”
However, arrests cannot be made until the county prosecutor for the case, Timothy J. McGinty, files a complaint. While Madison said on Thursday that he could not foresee any justifiable obstacle to a prosecution, McGinty released a statement the same day indicating hesitation to rush filing a criminal complaint. “This case, as with all other fatal-use-of-deadly-force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury,” he stated. “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.”
Rice was fatally shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann on November 22 after his pellet gun was mistaken for a firearm. He was with his 14-year-old sister when a 911 caller reported Tamir waving his air-soft gun, emphasizing that the gun was “probably fake.” Somehow this information was not relayed to responding officers Loehmann and Garmback. Within two seconds of arriving at the scene, Loehmann fired two shots, fatally hitting Rice in the torso. Tamir’s sister ran to him, but was forced to the ground, handcuffed and placed in the police car. The officers stood beside Tamir’s body for at least four minutes without giving first aid and it took the ambulance eight minutes to arrive.
Tamir’s death came at a time of serial shootings of unarmed black individuals by law enforcement, sparking protests across the country calling for reforms in race relations and police use of force. This movement, coined Black Lives Matter, has prompted national dialogues on police brutality—an occurrence that is also widespread throughout other countries in the hemisphere. In 2013, Brazilian police officers killed at least 2,212 people in 2013, according to the Brazilian Public Security Forum, compared to 461 deaths caused by police in the United States the same year. Brazil’s pacificação (pacification) processes, police occupation of favelas, have also coincided with increasing violence against women in Rio. Protestors from Mexico’s movement for the Ayotzinapa 43 stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement during New York City’s Million’s March last December, calling for an end to state repression.