The Year Without Tamir Rice

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Tamir Rice’s tragic passing.

It also marked one year of organizing by Tamir’s cousin, Latonya Goldsby, who has been working tirelessly to involve the local community, and people nationwide, in her fight for justice for Tamir.

Surrounded by family and supporters outside the Justice Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Latonya delivered over 200,000 signatures calling for the removal of the prosecutor from Tamir’s case. The demands stem from concerns that Prosecutor McGinty does not have an unbiased view in the case.

 

Petition Delivery

Outside the Justice Center, Latonya thanked the crowd and spoke about her fight for justice for Tamir. “Eight months after my cousin was murdered, we turned in a petition with sixty-three thousand signatures asking for McGinty to issue an arrest of the officers that killed Tamir Rice. Today, I am here to turn in a petition with two hundred thousand signatures asking him to step down.”

Latonya also made her mission clear, saying, “I refuse to not fight for my cousin. McGinty needs to take responsibility [for] his actions, just as well as those officers who killed Tamir Rice. Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback need to be arrested for the murder of Tamir Rice.”

Latonya introduced fellow Ohio resident, Connie Garber, whose son was also killed by police. On November 21st, a grand jury announced that it would not return any indictments against the sheriff deputies who shot Connie’s son, Brian Garber, fourteen times in ninety seconds, resulting in his death. Like Tamir, Brian was unarmed.

Natalie Green, a Change.org staff member, who attended the delivery, said it was “powerful to see Latonya and Connie standing together, talking about their loss.” Natalie also explained that during the delivery “most people stayed outside and started chanting ‘Justice for Tamir,’” and that there was a lot of “positive energy outside.”

After she spoke, Latonya and local community leaders went to deliver the 200,000 signatures to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. The signatures came from petitions calling for justice for Tamir Rice: one started by Latonya on Change.org, and others launched by advocacy organizations ColorofChange.org and Showing Up for Racial Justice.

When they arrived at McGinty’s office, they were told he was not in, and Latonya and her supporters were met instead by Joseph F. Frolik, the Director of Communications & Public Policy from the Justice Center, who did not have many answers for them. Latonya then left the petitions at the Justice Center. Despite this, Latonya and her supporters are encouraged by the outpouring of support at the event.

 

Timeline of Tamir Rice’s Case

On November 22nd, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann while playing with a toy airsoft gun at the Cudell Recreation Center. He died the next day. Since then, Tamir’s family has been demanding answers and calling for charges to be filed against both officers.

Two days after the shooting, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced that he would not charge Officer Loehmann, and would instead allow a grand jury to make that decision.

On November 26th, 2014, due to mounting public pressure, the police released a surveillance video  that captured Tamir’s shooting. The video shows Officer Loehmann shooting and killing Tamir within 1.5 seconds of arriving at the Cudell Recreation Center.  

In January, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation into Tamir’s shooting from the Cleveland Police Department. Two months later, Latonya started a petition on Change.org calling for charges to be brought against Officers Loehmann and Garmback. But it would be a while before the public would hear anything from the sheriff’s office.

Seven months after Tamir was killed, on June 3rd, 2015, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office completed its investigation and turned the case over to McGinty’s office without a recommendation to bring charges against the officers. Undeterred, in July, Latonya delivered more than 60,000 signatures to McGinty’s office demanding that charges be filed against both officers.

The next big development in Tamir’s case came in mid-October, when Prosecutor McGinty released two reports by experts who reviewed the case. In both reports, Officer Loehmann’s actions were found to be “reasonable,” given the circumstances. 

Subodh Chandra, an attorney for the Rice family, said the experts were selected to defend Officer Loehmann, and that requesting, and then publishing the expert reports was “an unprecedented thing for a prosecutor to do on behalf of someone potentially facing a murder charge.”

Following the release of these reports, Latonya started another petition asking Prosecutor McGinty to step down, and for a special prosecutor to take over the case. So far, McGinty has refused to do this.

 

Moving Forward

Tamir’s case is being reviewed by a grand jury, which will decide whether to press charges against Officer Loehmann. But for many in the community, a year has been too long to wait for justice.

As Cleveland pastor William Myers asked in a press conference, “Why in God’s name does it take an entire year to get justice for this child?” Myers was one of many clergy members who held a press conference asking McGinty to step down in favor of a special prosecutor. His sentiment is one felt by many in the community, and of course, Tamir’s family.