Jaeah is a former reporter at Mother Jones. Her writings have appeared in The Atlantic, the Guardian, Wired, Christian Science Monitor,Global Post,Huffington Post,Talking Points Memo, and Grist. She tweets at @jaeahjlee.
Cops kill suspects at about twice the rate once thought—and other findings.
Jaeah LeeJun. 2, 2015 6:00 AM
Police stand outside the home of a Lacey, Washington officer involved in a shooting of two accused shoplifters, May 22, 2015.
Two major news investigations have shed new light onto who dies at the hands of the police—and how. Using public records, news coverage, crowdsourced databases, and old-fashioned reporting, reporters at the Washington Post and Guardian have published what are arguably two of the most extensive examinations of recent police shootings across the country. (Read more about how they compiled their data, here and here.) The two reports confirm and build upon what previousattempts to collect and examine this data have already shown: Police killings happen much more frequently than the existing official data shows.
There's a lot to digest, so we've pulled out some key takeaways:
Police officers kill suspects at about twice the rate calculated by the FBI. In the first five months of 2015, the Post documented a total of 385 people who were fatally shot by police officers, or 2.5 per day—a rate more than twice that tallied by the federal government over the past decade. The Guardian, which counted 467 deaths by police so far in 2015—including not just deaths from gunfire but those involving Tasers, vehicle, or other causes—arrived at a similar rate.
The majority of those killed are armed. Armed suspects primarily had guns, the Postreported, but were also armed with "potentially lethal objects" such as knives, machetes, and in one instance, a nail gun.
But a significant chunk of suspects were unarmed when they were killed. The Post found that nearly 13 percent of victims in its dataset were unarmed, while 22 percent of those counted by the Guardian were unarmed.
Officers involved are rarely charged. This is consistent with prior research on prosecutions in cases of officer misconduct and use of deadly force. In the Post's 385 cases, only three officers have faced charges: Michael Slager (for the death of Walter Scott in South Carolina), Robert Bates (for killing Eric Harris in Oklahoma), and Lisa Mearkle (who killed David Kassick in Pennsylvania).
There are significant racial disparities among the dead, particularly among unarmed suspects. While the majority of suspects in the cases the Post looked at were white, blacks and Hispanics made up two-thirds of those who were unarmed. The Guardian's reporting showed that about one-third of black suspects killed were unarmed, compared with one-fourth of hispanic suspects, and about one-sixth of white suspects. Racial disparities in police killings have also been documented in databases maintained by the FBI, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About a quarter of all suspects killed were reportedly mentally ill. According to both the Post and the Guardian.
Most of those killed are men. Five percent of suspects tracked by the Post were female, consistent with the Guardian's breakdown. While most of the high-profile officer-involved shootings since Ferguson have involved men, several ongoing campaigns are bringing more attention to the deaths of women.
The majority of suspects were between 25 and 44 years old. That's based on the Post's analysis. The three youngest victims identified by the Guardian were 16. The oldest was 87.
The deaths involved a small group of the nation's estimated 18,000 law enforcement agencies. Three hundred and six, to be exact. The Post found that 19 state and local departments were involved in three or more fatal shootings each, including the police departments of Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, and Bakersfield, California.
Police officers are responsible for 1 in every 13 gun deaths. That figure, the equivalent of about 8 percent, comes from the Post's Christopher Ingraham. That's a lot more than suggested by other data on gun violence in America.
It's also worth noting what these investigations don't readily show. It's unclear, for instance, in how many cases police officers were known to have a history of misconduct or a questionable record. How many cases were captured on video? Are there notable racial disparities among mentally ill suspects? To what extent do the Post's and the Guardian's probes reveal incidents that weren't previously publicized?
These questions still linger. Still, for anyone who has been keeping an eye on police killings, these reports are a valuable start toward filling the gaping holes in the data.
With an investigation going on seven months, no officers have been charged.
Jaeah LeeMay 28, 2015 6:00 AM
Cleveland police responding to a protest in late May
On Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and US Justice Department officials announcedsweeping reforms for the Cleveland police department, including provisions overhauling use of force and crisis intervention practices. The changes arrive as questions continue to swirl around two lengthy investigations into the deaths of black suspects at the hands of Cleveland police.
As Mother Jones first reported in mid-May, the officers involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, which was captured on video and drew major media attention, still hadn't been questioned by investigators after six months. Another case, which has received less media attention, is that of Tanisha Anderson, a 37-year-old mentally ill woman who died shortly after two Cleveland police officers physically restrained her outside her home last November. Few details have been made public about the case, which was initially reviewed internally by the Cleveland PD. It has since been in the hands of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, which took control of the investigation on February 12, a spokesperson for Mayor Jackson's office told Mother Jones.
According to the official account released by the Cleveland police department, officers Scott Aldridge and Bryan Myers arrived at Anderson's home around 10:51 p.m. on November 12, in response to a call about a mentally ill family member. After a discussion with the officers, the account stated, Anderson agreed to be escorted to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, but as they approached the police vehicle Anderson "began actively resisting the officers." After they handcuffed her, Anderson began to kick at Aldridge and Myers, the officers said. "A short time later the woman stopped struggling and appeared to go limp," they said. The officers called an ambulance to the scene. Anderson was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital less than an hour later.
The police account includes no details about how or why Anderson fell limp on the sidewalk. According to Anderson's family members, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cleveland on January 7, Anderson suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Family members who lived with Anderson dialed 911 to request medical assistance after Anderson became disoriented and walked out of her house into the cold, wearing only a nightgown, according to the court filing. After the officers arrived and escorted Anderson to their car, the family says, she began to panic. Family members allege that Aldridge then grabbed Anderson, "slammed her to the sidewalk, and pushed her face into the pavement," and then pressed his knee on her back and handcuffed her, while Myers assisted in restraining her.Within moments, Anderson lost consciousness, the family members said. The lawsuit also alleges that when family members asked the officers to check on her condition, the officers "falsely claimed she was sleeping" and delayed calling for medical assistance. "During the lengthy time that Tanisha lay on the ground," the family said, Aldridge and Myers "failed to provide any medical attention to Tanisha."
The Cleveland police fueled community distrust by using "force against people in mental health crisis after family members have called the police in a desperate plea for assistance," the US Justice Department found.
Initially, the Cleveland PD conducted an internal administrative review, the details of which remain unknown to the public. In January, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office ruled the death a homicide by legal intervention, caused by a "sudden death associated with physical restraint." Cleveland's director of public safety Michael McGrath then announced that there would be a hearing for Aldridge and Myers to "determine if disciplinary action is warranted." (McGrath, previously Cleveland's police chief, came under criticism following a scathing report last year from the US Justice Department on the Cleveland PD's use of force and other practices.) That hearing took place on February 13, but the results have not been released, and any potential disciplinary action has been put on hold pending the criminal investigation, a spokesperson for Mayor Jackson's office told Mother Jones. Officers Aldridge and Myers remain on restricted duty.
The county prosecutor's office and the Cleveland police department declined to answer questions from Mother Jones about the investigation, including with regard to the length of time it's taking.
But public pressure for answers—in both the Rice and Anderson cases—has been rising. "It is extremely disconcerting that the families and the public are required to wait so long to find out if the officers will stand trial for the killings," says Ayesha Bell Hardaway, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and former Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor.
David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who writes about police behavior and regulation, adds that since the upheaval in Ferguson last summer, the public's expectations for investigations into officer-involved killings have begun to change. "One year ago, we probably did not take a lot of notice," he says. "It's only since Ferguson, and especially since North Charleston and Baltimore, that we are seeing cases being evaluated and moved more rapidly."
Unlike other recent killings—including another in Ohio, in which police shot John Crawford—there's no known video that captured the moments leading up to Anderson's death. Last December, however, the US Justice Department found that a pattern of misuse of deadly force by the Cleveland police department included "excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis." The Cleveland PD fueled community distrust, the DOJ report said, in part by using "force against people in mental health crisis after family members have called the police in a desperate plea for assistance." It also said that Cleveland officers were not receiving sufficient basic mental health training, and that the department appeared not to have offered any in-service mental health training since at least 2010.
It's unclear if Aldridge or Myers received any crisis intervention training at Cleveland PD. According to personnel records obtained by Cleveland.com, Aldridge was hired in April 2008, and was suspended for three days without pay in 2013 over a taser incident that involved a female suspect. (He was also one of the officers involved in the 60-car chase that led to the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012.) Myers, a rookie cop, joined the force in 2014, after graduating from the police academy that August in the same class as Timothy Loehmann, the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice. Cleveland.comreported that Aldridge and Myers' time at the academy included 16 hours of crisis intervention training.
The lack of video evidence in Anderson's case may be one reason why it has received less media attention than other officer-involved killings, says Hardaway. "But it goes beyond that," she adds, pointing to Anderson's gender and mental illness. According to research by the African American Policy Forum, Anderson's is one amongmanyother cases of black women killed by police that have goneunderreported.
Most suspects were black. A majority were unarmed. To date, three officers have been charged. (WARNING: Graphic footage.)
AJ Vicens and Jaeah LeeMay 20, 2015 6:15 AM
Screenshot from police video of the shooting of Jason Harrison in Dallas on June 14, 2014. Harrison's family obtained the footage in a civil rights lawsuit and chose to publicize it.
From Ferguson last summer to Baltimore this spring, police killings of unarmed black men under questionable circumstances have sparked outrage, civil unrest, and a heated national debate about policing in the United States. As Mother Jonesandothers have reported, there isn't sufficient data available for determining how many people are shot to death or otherwise killed by police each year, or how the issue might be trending. But more such incidents appear to be getting captured on video than ever before, due in part to the ubiquity of cellphone cameras. The footage—not only from cellphones, but also surveillance cameras, dashboard cameras in police cars, and police-worn body cameras—has caused a tectonic shift in public awareness.
Below are 13 videos of fatal police encounters recorded between March 16, 2014, and April 4, 2015. Most of the suspects killed were black. A majority of the suspects were unarmed. In three cases, the suspects killed reportedly had serious mental-health problems—which may have been known to the police in at least two of those cases at the time of the shootings.
Mother Jones has contacted law enforcement officials about the status of these 13 cases: Investigations are ongoing in eight of them. In one case, now six months old, the two officers involved still haven't been questioned by investigators. Officers in the five other cases have been absolved of wrongdoing via local or state proceedings. (One of those five cases is currently under review by the US Department of Justice.) Three of the 24 officers total who were involved in the 13 cases are currently facing criminal charges.
WARNING: The videos below contain graphic footage that some viewers may find disturbing.
Suspect killed: James Boyd Race: White When: March 16, 2014 Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico Footage from: Police-worn body camera
What happened: James Boyd, a homeless man who reportedly suffered from mental illnesses for years, was shot by Albuquerque police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez after a standoff over Boyd's hillside encampment in March 2014. Randi McGinn, the special prosecutor appointed to take over the case in April 2015, told Mother Jones that she is likely to pursue homicide charges, originally brought by the district attorney, and will make a determination in the next few weeks.
Suspect killed: Richard Ramirez Race: White/Hispanic When: April 14, 2014 Where: Billings, Montana Footage from: Police dashboard camera
What happened: Richard Ramirez was in the back of a car that was pulled over by officer Grant Morrison. Morrison later testified that, after he ordered the passengers to put up their hands, Ramirez repeatedly dropped his left hand. Morrison stated that he thought Ramirez—who'd been identified as a suspect in an armed robbery the prior night—was reaching for a gun, so he shot him three times. Ramirez was unarmed. (In February 2013, Morrison shot and killed another man while on duty, and was cleared of any wrongdoing.) In January 2015, a coroner's jury ruled the action a justifiable homicide.
Suspect killed: Jason Harrison Race: Black When: June 14, 2014 Where: Dallas Footage from: Police-worn body camera
What happened: Harrison's mother called police saying that her son was off his medication and acting out, and requested help to get him to a hospital. When Dallas police officers John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins arrived at the front door, Harrison's mother stepped out, letting the officers know that her son was bipolar and schizophrenic. When Harrison came to the door, the officers told him to drop a screwdriver he was holding, and shot him when he failed to comply. According to the Dallas Morning News, the officers' attorney said that they feared for their lives, because killing someone using a screwdriver would be "pretty easy. It'll only take one blow." In April 2015, a grand jury decided not to indict the officers.
Suspect killed: Eric Garner Race: Black When: July 17, 2014 Where: Staten Island, New York Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: In July 2014, police approached Eric Garner on a Staten Island street after Garner had broken up a fight, and then started questioning him about selling loose cigarettes. NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo wrapped his arm around Garner's neck from behind in a takedown maneuver and held Garner on the ground as Garner repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." Garner was later pronounced dead at the hospital. In December 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo.
Suspect killed: John Crawford III Race: Black Where: August 5, 2014 Where: Beavercreek, Ohio Footage from: Walmart surveillance camera
What happened: Crawford, 22, was walking around in a Walmart holding a BB gun that had been for sale on the store's shelves. Responding to a 911 call about a man waving a gun, Beavercreek officer Sean Williams and Sergeant David Darkow arrived at the Walmart. The officers later told investigators that Williams opened fire after Crawford failed to comply with their orders to drop the gun. A grand jury decided in September 2014 not to indict the officers. The US Department of Justice launched a review of the case last September, which is ongoing, a DOJ spokesperson confirmed to Mother Jones.
Suspect killed: Dillon Taylor Race: White When: August 11, 2014 Where: Salt Lake City Footage from: Police-worn body camera
What happened: Dillon Taylor, his brother, and his cousin were outside a convenience store and allegedly matched the description from a 911 call about three men, including one brandishing a gun. Officer Bron Cruz confronted the trio and began following Taylor, who initially walked away with his back toward Cruz. Taylor then turned around and kept walking backward, and had both hands in his waistband, according to Cruz. Cruz said he thought Taylor had a gun, and he repeatedly yelled at Taylor to get his hands out, before firing two shots. Taylor was unarmed. In September 2014, the Salt Lake City District Attorney determined the shooting was justified.
Suspect killed: Kajieme Powell Race: Black When: August 19, 2014 Where: St. Louis Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: A bystander's cellphone video shows Powell, 25, walking around outside a corner grocery store after allegedly stealing energy drinks and pastries. As he paced back and forth, a police car pulled onto the sidewalk just up the street and two police officers got out. Powell, who was brandishing a knife, began to approach the officers (whose names have not been released), telling them to shoot him. After a pause, he took another step toward the officers and they opened fire. St. Louis Metro police chief Sam Dotson later stated that Powell "came at the officers" while gripping the knife. In February, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not request charges when it handed off its investigation to the circuit attorney's office, whose probe is ongoing, a spokesperson confirmed.
Suspect killed: Tamir Rice Race: Black When: November 22, 2014 Where: Cleveland Footage from: Surveillance camera
What happened: Rice, 12, was playing in a local park when someone called 911 and reported that a person, "probably a juvenile," was waving a gun around that was "probably fake." Police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback pulled up to Rice in their patrol car and Loehmann got out and shot Rice almost instantly. No charges have been filed in the case. As Mother Jones first reported last week, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department, which took control of the case in January, has yet to interview the two officers in its ongoing investigation.
Suspect killed: Jerame Reid Race: Black When: December 30, 2014 Where: Bridgeton, New Jersey Footage from: Dashboard camera
What happened: Reid was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign. Officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley approached the car, and despite verbal warnings from the officers, Reid opened his door and reportedly got out of the car with his hands up, after saying "I ain't doing nothing. I'm not reaching for nothing, bro," according to the Associated Press. Both Days and Worley shot him. The officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, and Reid's family has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the city of Bridgeton. (Days is also facing a separate lawsuit for alleged rape.)
Suspect killed: Antonio Zambrano-Montes Race: Hispanic When: February 10, 2015 Where: Pasco, Washington Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: After responding to a call of a man throwing rocks in a grocery store parking lot, three Pasco police officers tried to arrest Zambrano. They pursued him on foot, shooting at him as he ran, and they fired at close range as he turned around to face them. In the video, his hands appear to have been empty. Officers Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright, and Adrian Alaniz were placed on paid leave, and an investigation is ongoing.
Suspect killed: Charly Keunang Race: Black When: March 1, 2015 Where: Los Angeles Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: Six police officers were responding to a 911 call about an alleged robbery and assault on LA's Skid Row, in which Keunang was reportedly a suspect. During a struggle with police, Keunang, who reportedly suffered from mental health problems,allegedly reached for an officer's gun, prompting several officers to open fire. The three officers who fired their guns—Sergeant Chand Syed, and Officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres—have been reassigned to administrative duty and an internal police department investigation is ongoing, the LAPD confirmed to Mother Jones. Keunang's family has filed a $20 million civil claim against the city.
Suspect killed: Phillip White Race: Black When: March 31, 2015 Where: Vineland, New Jersey Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: Responding to a call of a man acting erratically, police handcuffed and restrained the 32-year-old White. According to investigators, White became unresponsive and received CPR in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, where he eventually died. Police called it an "in-custody non-shooting death," but witnesses on the scene said the officers beat White and that a police dog bit him in the face. An investigation by the Cumberland County prosecutor's office is ongoing. The officers in the case, Louis Platania and Rich Janasiak, are both on administrative leave, according to news reports.
Suspect killed: Walter Scott Race: Black When: April 4, 2015 Where: North Charleston, South Carolina Footage from: Police dashboard camera and bystander's cellphone
What happened: Dashboard camera footage showed Scott running away from his vehicle after North Charleston police officer Michael Slager pulled Scott over for a broken brake light. In the following minutes, recorded on a bystander's cellphone, Slager caught up to Scott in an open field, and after a short struggle, Scott, who was unarmed, broke free and began to run away. Slager then shot Scott multiple times from behind. Slager was fired from his job and faces a felony murder charge.
Nor is the other cop involved under criminal investigation, MoJo has learned.
Jaeah LeeMay 15, 2015 6:00 AM
When the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department made its first public comments on Tuesday about its ongoing investigation into the death last November of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, it provided few details. Nearly six months since Cleveland police fatally shot Rice at a community center park where he had been waving around a toy gun, questions are mounting as to why the investigation has taken so long, especially given explicit surveillance footage of the shooting and the troubling police record of the officer who pulled the trigger.
Mother Jones has learned that the two officers involved in the shooting—Timothy Loehmann, who fired the shots, and Frank Garmback, who drove the police car—still have not been interviewed by investigators from the sheriff's department. According to an official familiar with the case, investigators have made more than one attempt to interview Loehmann and Garmback since the Cleveland Police Department handed over the case in January. (Read more about why the sheriff's department took over the investigation here.)
A county official familiar with the case told Mother Jones that the criminal investigation is focused solely on Loehmann. Garmback, who pulled the police car to within a few feet of Rice right before Loehmann stepped out and shot Rice almost instantly, is currently not under criminal investigation by the sheriff's department, the official said.
In the surveillance footage, both Loehmann and Garmback can be seen standing around after the shooting while Rice lies bleeding on the ground. About a minute and a half after the shooting, Garmback can be seen tackling Rice's 14-year-old sister as she tries to run to her wounded brother. Four minutes go by during which Loehmann and Garmback make no attempt to give Rice first aid. An FBI agent in the area then comes to the scene and begins to tend to Rice before an ambulance arrives to take him to the hospital (where he died the next day).
Michael P. Maloney and Henry Hilow, the two attorneys representing the officers, declined to comment to Mother Jones about the officers' participation in the investigation, saying it would be inappropriate to do so while the investigation was ongoing.
"It's not only an ethical requirement but almost certainly a departmental imperative to do what they can to save the life of the suspect. The failure to do that is really disturbing."
Whether Garmback could also potentially face criminal charges is a complex question, says Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies policing. Stoughton says that he would expect prosecutors to at least consider the possibility, adding that both officers' actions in the wake of the shooting also raise stark ethical questions: "The Tamir Rice shooting was a use of horrible tactics," he says. "It was a ludicrous way to approach a scene where you've been told that there is a person with a gun who has been aiming it at bystanders. I would expect the officers would park at a safe distance and walk up, using cover and concealment, and try to initiate communication at a distance. That's the 'three Cs' of tactical response."
It remains unclear why, in the minutes after both Rice and his sister lay on the ground, the officers did not tend to Rice. According to Stoughton—who previously served as a police officer himself for five years—a fundamental principle of policing is that once a threat has been eliminated and a scene secured, an officer's first priority is to aid an injured person. "At that point, the officer and his medical kit might be the only thing between the suspect and death," he says. "It's not only an ethical requirement but almost certainly a departmental imperative to do what they can to save the life of the suspect. The failure to do that is really disturbing."
In Stoughton's opinion, such inaction could potentially rise to the level of criminal charges, depending on departmental policy, state law, and other circumstances. He adds: "There's nothing in the video suggesting that there was a threat that would justify the officers in doing anything other than rendering aid to Tamir Rice."
In the statement to reporters on Tuesday, Cuyuhoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney said that his investigators had examined "thousands of pages of documents" and that "a majority of our work is complete." According to an official familiar with the investigation, those documents include Rice's autopsy report, a 911 call transcript, cellphone records, transcripts of interviews with witnesses, and the training records of both police officers.
The documents also include Loehmann’s mental-health records, as well as disciplinary records from both the Cleveland Police Department and the Independence Police Department, where he'd served until December 2012. A deputy chief's letter from Loehmann's personnel file there said that during firearms qualification training Loehmann was "distracted" and "weepy," according to a report on Cleveland.com. It also said that Loehmann "could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal."
The sheriff's investigation is expected to conclude in the coming weeks, an official familiar with the work confirmed. In the meantime, Rice's grieving family members felt they could no longer wait for closure. They'd been paying to preserve the boy's body, the Washington Postreported on Wednesday, waiting until the legal investigation was complete, in case an additional medical examination was needed. Late last week the family decided to cremate Rice, the family's attorney told the Post. "What everyone needs to understand is that Samaria Rice is a mother first," the attorney said. "Whether in life or death, her instinct is to take care of her child. Him not being put to final rest was just physically, emotionally, psychologically unsettling to her."
Family reacts as officials offer few details on the long investigation into the 12-year-old's death.
Jaeah LeeMay 11, 2015 4:31 PM
Protesters in Cleveland on Nov. 25, 2014, following the police shooting of Tamir Rice.
Nearly six months after 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot to death by Cleveland police, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department gave its first press conference on Tuesday about its ongoing criminal investigation. In a brief statement, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney told reporters that his team had "poured over thousands of pages of documents, and conducted numerous search warrants and interviews with witnesses." Investigators have also taken 3D scans from the Cuddell Recreation Center grounds, where Rice died, and reviewed all surveillance footage from the surrounding area, Pinkney said. He also said that "a few more witnesses need to be interviewed and more forensic evidence needs to be collected," and that "a majority of our work is complete." Pinkney declined to take any questions and said he would provide no deadline for when the investigation would end.
Following Pinkey's statement, reporters huddled around a woman named Latonya Goldsby, who said she was a cousin of Rice. Goldsby wept as she told reporters that Rice's family had no idea that the sheriff would be delivering the statement—the agency's first since taking over the investigation in January—until seeing it described on the news Monday night. She said that she rushed to the press conference expecting the sheriff to announce plans to charge the officers involved in Rice's death. "My family is very disappointed with how this investigation has transpired," she said. "There is no transparency in Cleveland." She added: "I feel so disgusted with the city of Cleveland for not showing some type of compassion to my family. We had to bury a 12-year-old kid." [Updated May 12, 12:55 p.m. ET; original story starts below.]
On Tuesday, nearly half a year since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed at a community center park by a Cleveland police officer, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department will make its first public statement about the progress of its criminal investigation. Sheriff Clifford Pinkney will review the timeline of the investigation from the day Rice was shot until present, and what remains to be done, according to a county official familiar with the case. Citing the ongoing investigation, Pinkney's office says he plans to take no questions from the media following the statement.
The sheriff's department has remained quiet about the investigation ever since taking it over from the Cleveland Police Department in January, despite mounting questions about how long the process has taken in light of explicit video footage of the killing and the troubling police record of Timothy Loehmann, the officer who fired the fatal shots. The few details about the investigation that have come to light so far have been via court filingsissued as part of the Rice family's wrongful death suit against the city of Cleveland. Last week, Loehmann and fellow officer Frank Garmback filed a motion in that case seeking to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department declined to comment on the record about the two officers' role in the ongoing criminal investigation.
Political infighting may have been a factor in the prolonged process: After Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson asked the county to take over the investigation in early January, the sheriff's department requested help from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, against Jackson's wishes. DeWine had previously said that a 2012 police shooting involving another officer, Michael Brelo, revealed a "systemic failure" at the Cleveland PD. Brelo currently faces voluntary manslaughter charges for shooting and killing two unarmed black suspects during a car chase, and a verdict is expected this month. (Thirteen officers were involved that case, but Brelo was the only one charged.) The handover of the Rice case also coincided with the start of a new Cuyahoga County executive's term.
Still, particularly against the backdrop of ongoing national news about officer-involved killings, the pace of the Rice investigation has been troubling, says Ayesha Bell Hardaway, alaw professor at Case Western Reserve University and a former Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor. "The lapse of time from Tamir's death until now has been too great," she says, adding that "the public's confidence in the police department and the city of Cleveland is hanging in the balance."