No Indictment For Police Officers In Tamir Rice Shooting
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A perfect storm of human error - those words from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty. Today, he announced there will be no charges brought against the two Ohio police officers involved in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TIM MCGINTY: If we put ourselves in the victim's shoes, as prosecutors and detectives try to do, it is likely that Tamir, whose size made him look much older and who had been warned that his pallet gun might get him into trouble that day, either intended to hand it over or show them it wasn't a real gun. But there was no way for the officers to know that.
CORNISH: A grand jury hearing evidence of the investigation returned the decision not to indict. Rice was shot to death by police in a Cleveland park in November 2014. He was holding a replica pellet gun without the orange tip that would indicate it was a toy. On the line now is reporter Nick Castele from member station WCPN in Cleveland. And Nick, let's start with more details about Tim McGinty, what he had to say to the prosecutor. What were the reasons that the grand jury declined to indict the two officers?
NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: Well, the prosecutor said that the central reason was that they found that officers reasonably believed that their lives were in danger when they approached Tamir Rice in that park. Prosecutor Timothy McGinty says that their expert's analysis of the surveillance video of the shooting showed that Tamir had begun to remove the toy gun from his waistband, as we heard in that clip from the beginning.
Now, he said that although this was, as you heard, a perfect storm of human error, he said it did not rise to the level of seeking charges against the officer because, again, he thought they reasonably feared for their lives in that situation. And Prosecutor McGinty also said that that was the recommendation that prosecutors made to the grand jury before they return their no indictment.
CORNISH: And yet, the prosecutor had harsh criticism for the radio personnel who took in the original 911 call that brought police to the park that day.
CASTELE: Right. When someone in that park called 911 on that day more than a year ago now, they said that they thought the gun was probably fake. They said the person was probably a juvenile, but that information was not relayed to police officers who responded to the park that day. The prosecutor said that they responded to the park believing that they were in an active shooter situation, and they rushed in as if there were an active shooter there. The prosecutor said that if they had known that the gun was probably fake, that there were doubts about whether this was a real firearm, they might have responded differently in that case.
CORNISH: Now, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty also said that he reached out to Tamir Rice's mother. Can you talk about what reaction there's been from the family?
CASTELE: Well, the family all along has been very critical of the way this grand jury has been conducted. You know, the prosecutor has been releasing reports throughout the process. Usually grand juries are secret. The prosecutor has decided to release expert reports, all of which found that officers committed no wrongdoing in the situation.
So the family has been very critical of that. They've accused the prosecutor of abusing the grand jury process and steering the process toward no indictment. They've also gone out, and they've solicited their own experts, their own family experts who found just the opposite, who said there was probable cause for charges. Those experts also said - one of them said they thought Tamir had his hands in his pockets at the time of the shooting. So they, all along, have been critical of this process, and they were again today.
CORNISH: That's reporter Nick Castele from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Nick, thanks so much for talking with us.
CASTELE: Thank you.
CORNISH: One thing to note - after Rice's death last year, the Cleveland Police Department was widely criticized because their two police officers did not give first aid to Tamir Rice after they shot him. Rice didn't receive any medical attention until four minutes later when FBI agent who was also a paramedic arrived on the scene. Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson today called the department's lack of medical training a shortcoming. The department has since trained nearly all of its 1,500 police officers in basic first aid, and every patrol car has been given a first aid kit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.