A newly released report examining the actions of the Cleveland police officers involved in the November 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice concludes that the call taker who handled a 911 call about Rice failed to relay significant details to the officers about the 12-year-old boy. The report also offers new information on why the officers pulled their car to within 10 feet of Rice, just seconds before he was fatally shot. And similar to two other reports made public from the ongoing grand jury investigation, it reaches a conclusion sure to continue stoking controversy about the case—that officer Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shots, made “the only objectively reasonable decision” possible in gunning down Rice point-blank.
The independent analysis, released on Thursday afternoon by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office, is part of ongoing grand jury deliberations on whether Loehmann should face criminal charges. It was authored by W. Ken Katsaris, a Florida police officer and training instructor tapped by the prosecutor’s office.
“The dispatcher should have provided additional information to the officers, including details that the ‘guy with the gun’ is ‘probably a juvenile,'” wrote Katsaris. He added that while the caller described the weapon as “‘probably a fake,’ he also clearly reported ‘I don’t know if it’s real or not.'” Yet Katsaris also notes that the call taker “did gather sufficient information from [the caller] and handled the call appropriately.”
The county sheriff’s investigation revealed in June that a call taker at the Cleveland police dispatch center entered the 911 caller’s information into a computer system and assigned it a “code one,” the highest priority emergency. But, as Mother Jones first reported in June, that call taker never entered the additional details about Rice probably being a juvenile and the uncertainty about his gun, and that information was not relayed by another dispatcher to the officers headed to the scene.
Katsaris says that while these additional details should have been provided to the officers, they “would not be very helpful to the officers in terms of decision making,” because they do not “in any way diminish the threat potential, and the statements about the firearm are far too ambiguous to be taken as relevant unless the circumstances were clearly different than this situation unfolded.” He concludes, “the only objectively reasonable decision to be made by Loehmann was to utilize deadly force and deploy his firearm.”
The report also focuses on the actions of officer Frank Garmback, who drove the squad car directly up to Rice: “It appears that the officers were heading for the area of the swings, where the ‘guy with the gun’ was last reported being seen.” When the officers instead spotted Rice under a nearby gazebo, this sighting “was not expected,” according to Katsaris, “causing Officer Garmback to apply the brakes suddenly, and hard, skidding for forty feet and ten inches.” Katsaris adds that “it is obvious to me, from the totality of the circumstances, that the vehicle stop position was not by choice, but by necessity.”
Policing experts including former officers have told Mother Jones that the officers’ actions leading up to the shooting of Rice was “a use of horrible tactics” and that they warrant further investigation.
Katsaris’s report marks the fourth one made public by county prosecutor McGinty. The release of various analysis ahead of a grand jury decision suggesting that the officers may not be charged has drawn criticism and prompted Rice’s family and supporters to demand a special prosecutor.
Update, November 13, 2015 12:34 a.m. ET: In a statement to Mother Jones, Subodh Chandra, an attorney for Rice’s mother and sister, said that the family “has lost confidence in the prosecutor,” calling his handling of the case “a charade.” The family did not know about the report released on Thursday until learning about it from media reports, Chandra said. “And this report is just as flawed as the previous ones. The report assumes non-existent facts—like what the officers were thinking when the officers have never testified, and it ignores other critical facts—including the fact the officers rushed up to Tamir and fired immediately, the fact that Ohio is an open-carry state, and that the officers left a 12-year-old boy bleeding and dying on the ground without administering first aid. Judge Ronald Adrine has held that probable cause to charge the officers exists. Law professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich has opined that a jury must decide the issue of guilt or innocence. Yet the prosecutor has not committed to sharing their opinions with the grand jury.”