No charges for US cop who shot dead 12-year-old boy

Krystal Johnson and Kim Palmer

A grand jury has cleared two US police officers of fatally shooting a 12-year-old in 2014 who was brandishing a toy gun in a park, due to a lack of evidence.

After more than a year of investigation, a Cleveland grand jury declined to bring charges against either of the two white police officers involved in the deadly shooting of Tamir Rice.

Tamir was shot in November 2014 in response to reports of a suspect with a gun.

The young african-American boy died the next day.

12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a US police officer and died the next day. Photo: ABC US
Tamir was playing with a replica handgun outside a recreational centre when a US cop shot him twice within seconds. Photo: Family Photo/MGN Online

Rice's shooting is one of several cases that have raised questions about police use of deadly force in the US, particularly against minorities.

The schoolboy was playing with a replica handgun outside a recreation center when Officer Timothy Loehmann shot him twice within seconds of reaching the park in a squad car driven by his partner, Frank Garmback.

A fake handgun taken from 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot by Cleveland police, is displayed after a news conference. Photo: Mark Duncan
Tamir E. Rice is seen allegedly pointing a pellet gun at the Cudell Recreation Centre in Cleveland. Photo: Cleveland Police DepartmenT

"Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunication by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police," Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said in a statement.

McGinty said enhanced video evidence showed that Rice was reaching for the replica gun, which shoots plastic pellets, when a police squad car responding to a 911 call of a man waving a gun rolled up next to him. An officer then stepped out and shot him.

The Airsoft replica is usually sold with an orange tip on it, which was not on the version Rice had. It is a replica of a Colt 1911 .45-calibre handgun.

Prosecutors showed a standard handgun side-by-side with a replica at the news conference.

McGinty also called on makers of replica guns to do more to make them easier to distinguish from actual firearms.

A statement read to the grand jury and released by prosecutors said that Rice appeared much older and reached for the toy gun that was tucked in his waistband before Loehmann shot at him.

The officer said he yelled for Rice to show his hands and saw him pull a gun from his waistband before the officer fired.

"The male appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds," the statement read.

This photo of a combination of still images taken from a surveillance video shows officers arriving at Cudell Park on a report of a man with a gun. Photo: Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office
Tamir Rice became an emblem of racism in Cleveland and the US. Photo: AP

“I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time. I was fixed on his waistband and hand area. I was trained to keep my eyes on his hands because ‘hands may kill.'”

Loehmann and Garmback also said in their statements they were concerned the armed suspect might enter the recreation centre.

As the car slid, “I started to open the door and yelled continuously ‘show me your hands’ as loud as I could,” Loehmann said in his statement.

“I fired two shots. Based on ‘tap-tap’ training, I shot towards the gun in his hand," Loehmann said in the statement.