Last November Cleveland Officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a city park.  The investigation by law enforcement has now been completed, and the case is being handed over to prosecutors and a Grand Jury, reports CNN and other sources.

The Cleveland police officers had been dispatched to the scene by 911 because of calls received that someone–ultimately determined to be Tamir Rice–was walking around the park pointing a gun at people. At least one call to 911 reported “a guy with a pistol” walking around the park.

The same caller purportedly also told 911 that the gun was “probably” fake, but according to dispatch recordings released by law enforcement this additional information was not communicated to the responding officers.  Even if it had, no police officer could reasonably be expected to risk his life on the firearm identification skills of an anonymous caller to 911.

Indeed, the surveillance video (below the fold, and annotated by the author) clearly shows Rice openly handling an apparent pistol (seemingly spinning it on his finger cowboy-style at the 1:20 mark), placing and removing it from his waistband (e.g., at 2:00 mark), and even apparently pointing the gun-like object at passersby. There are at least 10 occasions captured by the grainy footage of the surveillance video in which Rice is openly displaying the apparent gun in some fashion.  To an actual observer at the scene, the handling of the gun would have been far more apparent.

When police pulled up to his location, they say Rice immediately reached for the apparent gun in his waistband (highlighted in the photo below, and seen at the 7:27 mark in the video), and they engaged him with defensive fire.

Tamir Rice reaches for gun in waistband

Tamir Rice reaches for gun in waistband

The weapon would, upon later examination, prove to be a pellet or airsoft gun.  Of course, a police officer (and anyone else acting in self-defense) is permitted by law to respond to the reasonable perception of an object as a deadly weapon, and it matters not if the weapon later turns out to be unloaded or incapable of firing or a pellet gun or a toy.

Indeed, unnamed sources within the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s investigation of the event are telling reporters that the findings of their investigation do not support bringing charges against Officer Loehmann, according to ABC-newsnet5 in Cleveland, with the source stating that their “investigation and evidence shows the lack of evidence to support that a crime was committed in the shooting of Tamir Rice.”.  (h/t to always excellent for this portion of the story.)

At this point the  Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office has turned its investigation into the shooting of Tamir Rice over to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, which will decide whether to put the matter before a Grand Jury.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

ADDENDUM [6-4-15, 10:00]:  It occurs to me it might be worth recalling how the release of the autopsy report in the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson last year exposed the falsity of the “hands up” and “shot in the back” narratives being advanced by street activists in that case:

New #Ferguson: “forensic evidence … lent credence to Officer Wilson’s version of events”

Michael Brown Autopsy A Further Blow To #Ferguson Racial Narrative

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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.


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