Culpability in the Death of Tamir Rice

Tamir RiceA report totaling hundreds of pages has been released regarding the shooting death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was playing with a toy gun in a public part in Cleveland. Not surprisingly, the officers involved claim that they had no choice but the kill the boy. Several things struck me while reading German Lopez’s overview at Vox, New Documents Reveal Details About Cleveland Police Shooting of 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice. It seems strange that after going through this exercise, the report isn’t more clear. And even after this, it is still questionable whether there will be an indictment. And it is almost certain that the officers will be found not guilty if they are forced to go to trial.

Much has been made of the fact that the orange tip on the pellet gun was missing. But this seems to be irrelevant. Officer Timothy Loehmann claims that he was forced to shoot Rice because the boy went for the gun that was in his waistband. So the officer wouldn’t have seen the orange tip even if it had been the there. The only thing that would have been different is that after shooting Rice, the officer would have known right away what he had done. Now that might have been useful to know because Rice didn’t die right away.

There was an FBI agent who was in the area and came to scene between four and five minutes after the shooting. He immediately started to administer first-aid. According to Lopez’s article, “The FBI agent described Loehmann and [officer Frank] Garmback as almost shell-shocked — wanting to do something but not knowing what to do.” Rice was eventually taken to the hospital where he died the following night. So in addition to driving up on Rice and quickly shooting him, the two officers did not treat him properly after the incident. I don’t know if Rice would have survived if they had, but when the FBI agent showed up, Rice was still conscious.

Loehmann said of the shooting, “He gave me no choice. He reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do.” This is the sort of thing we hear from police officers all the time. But I’m curious why it is that officers who think they might be dealing with a dangerous person with a gun are so careless about driving up to them. If Rice had been a madman with a gun, he could have just shot both the officers before they ever got out of the car. So the idea here seems to be that the police should just throw themselves into situations where wiser people would be cautious. And then at the slightest sign of trouble, they should just start firing away.

In this case, there is enormous culpability. I don’t think we can say that Loehmann is guilty of murder. But both he and Garmback seem to be guilty of reckless endangerment. And their total uselessness in getting Rice medical attention after he was shot must be seen as criminal negligence for two men who were supposedly trained to deal with situations like this. But I suspect that this is the problem. As far as I can tell, our police officers are trained to be like George Zimmerman: belligerent cowards. The slogan of the police should be changed to, “To protect and serve ourselves.” And the iconic statement should be, “Just the facts ma’am — right after I call my union rep.”

This entry was posted in Politics by Frank Moraes. Bookmark the permalink.

About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Culpability in the Death of Tamir Rice

  1. Why would the child reach for a toy gun? The gun was in his waistband so the officers should not have shot the boy in the first place, but it seems pretty silly that the boy was going to reach for a toy gun and shoot the officer. This seems to me like a automatic response of “I was afraid and he was reaching for his gun” There was no gun to reach for as it was a toy thus they boy would have no reason to reach for it.
    This was simply murder under the color of law and it will be a sad day in the United States if these men are not placed in prison for their actions.

    • Given my general theory that cops are pussies and thus always afraid, I will be surprised if they are convicted of anything at all. The old statement is, “With great power goes great responsibility.” But not in America. Here, the more power you have, the less you are held responsible. I’m still struck in this case by the fact that the car rolled right up to the boy. If they were really concerned, why did they do that? I think the answer is that it was exciting. It’s exciting to pretend that your boring job is dangerous. And then at the slightest indication that you might be in actual danger, you just start firing. And once you realize you screwed up, you are incapable of even doing the simplest things to minimize the damage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *