Tamir Rice, 12, was shot and killed by a white Cleveland police officer in 2014

By Eric Todisco
December 30, 2020 10:26 AM
Tamir Rice
| Credit: Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A./AP

Two Cleveland police officers will not be criminally charged for their involvement in the 2014 killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in an Ohio park, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

According to a Department of Justice release, federal prosecutors concluded that the poor quality of the video from the shooting could not prove that Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback obstructed justice.

Prosecutors reportedly said that because the officers' claimed that Loehmann believed Tamir was going for his gun when he fatally shot him, the DOJ would have to prove that Loehmann's actions willfully broke the law rather than being the result of a mistake, negligence or bad judgment.

On Nov. 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir was fatally shot by Loehmann while carrying a replica pellet gun outside a recreation center. Widely-circulated surveillance video showed Loehmann pulling up to the Black pre-teen in a police vehicle driven by Garmback, stepping out and almost immediately firing his gun. Tamir died several hours later from his gunshot wounds.

In December 2015, a grand jury declined to charge Loehmann on any charges for shooting Tamir. Garmback was also not charged.

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According to CNN, Loehmann was later fired in May 2017 after investigators found he wasn't truthful about his employment history when he applied for the job, while Garmback was suspended for 10 days because he violated tactical rules relating to how he drove up to the scene with Loehmann before Tamir was shot.

Jonathan Abady, the Rice family's attorney, told CNN that Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, is "beside herself with grief and disappointment" over the DOJ's decision.

"This case involves the totally unjustified shooting of a 12-year-old child," he told the outlet. "This is part of a problem that we've been living with as a society for as long as anyone can remember, that is the unjustified excessive use of force by police officers against people of color. And the idea that people would not be held accountable for this is really more than upsetting."

Tamir's family agreed to a $6 million settlement in 2016 in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, PEOPLE confirmed at the time.

As part of the settlement, the city did not have to admit any wrongdoing, Zoe Salzman, one of the family’s lawyers, told PEOPLE at the time. Because of the settlement, the case never went to trial.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.

National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.