DOJ ended investigation into Tamir Rice shooting without telling family
The Justice Department let a request for a federal probe into Rice's death sit for two years. Then, it quietly said no.
Last August, the U.S. Justice Department, led by Attorney General William Barr, unofficially shut down its investigation into a Cleveland Police officer’s shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Shot while playing alone in a park with a toy gun in 2014, Rice died the day after a single bullet from the gun of now-former Officer Timothy Loehmann struck him in the stomach less than two seconds after Loehmann arrived with Officer Frank Garmback, who was driving the police cruiser.
The officers were never indicted for Rice’s death. A Cleveland grand jury determined in December 2015, after viewing surveillance videotape, that it appeared the young boy was carrying a firearm.
A request for a federal grand jury investigation into the shooting, reportedly urged by longtime prosecutors, was made in 2017, but according to The New York Times, the Justice Department basically let it sit for two years with no action. The DOJ finally denied permission for the grand jury in August of 2019.
However, the department has not officially closed the case, and no one has notified the Rice family it does not plan to pursue federal charges against the officers.
A former department official told The Times that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was never briefed about prosecutors’ request for permission to use a grand jury, and a current staff reportedly said the same about Barr.
Subodh Chandra, the attorney who represents the Rice family, said Tamir Rice’s mother, Samaria Rice, was crushed to hear the federal probe will no longer progress.
“It was devastating to learn that this supposedly ‘law-and-order’ administration slow-rolled the investigation to let the statute of limitations run out,” said Chandra, “hid from the crime victim’s family its decision not to prosecute, and let the officers get away with murder and obstruction of justice.”
The city of Cleveland paid the Rice family $6 million in 2016 to settle their wrongful death lawsuit, and the following year, Loehmann was fired from the police department.
Coming just two years after the shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman, as well as the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Rice’s death was a pivotal moment in inspiring the current Black Lives Matter movement.