The Justice Department announced it would not bring federal criminal charges against two Cleveland police officers in the 2014 killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, saying video of the shooting was of too poor a quality for prosecutors to establish conclusively what happened, reports the Associated Press. DOJ ended a long-running investigation into a high-profile shooting that helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement and that became part of the national dialogue about police use of force against minorities. The decision, explained in a lengthy statement, does not condone the officers’ actions but says the cumulative evidence was not enough to support a criminal civil rights prosecution.
Tamir was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center on Nov. 22, 2014, when he was shot and killed by officer Timothy Loehmann, who is white, seconds after Loehmann and officer Frank Garmback arrived at the scene. A man drinking beer and waiting for a bus had called 911 to report that a “guy” was pointing a gun at people. The caller told a dispatcher that it was probably a juvenile and the gun might be “fake,” though that information was never relayed to the officers. To bring federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department must prove that an officer’s actions willfully broke the law rather than being the result of a mistake, negligence or bad judgment. Subodh Chandra, an attorney for the boy’s family, said the Justice Department’s “process was tainted.” The family has demanded prosecutors provide additional information about recommendations made during the probe. In this case, the Justice Department said poor-quality video prevented prosecutors from determining whether Rice was or was not reaching for his toy gun just prior to being shot.