- Screenshot via NPR
Previously unseen videos reveal inconsistencies in the story told by the police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park.
Two videos, which have been obtained by Cleveland.com and previously never viewed publicly, show police inteviews with Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, two of the officers involved in the shooting of Tamir Rice, who was playing in the park with a toy gun.
After a grand jury refused to press criminal charges against Loehmann for shooting Rice, the City of Cleveland pushed forth internal discipline charges against him, Garmback and one other officer for their response to the incident.
In his interview with investigators, Loehmann said that he yelled “Put your hands in the air! Let me see your weapon! Freeze!” when the car was within 30 yards of Rice. Meanwhile, in a written statement to a grand jury, Loehmann said that he only opened the door and started yelling when his car had started rolling to a stop, according to Cleveland.com.
He and Garmback were responding to a call of a male sitting on a bench and pointing a gun at people, despite the fact that the caller told the police dispatcher that the suspect was likely a youth and the gun was “probably fake.”
“The threat just became incredible,” says Loehmann in the video. “I had to make the decision fast because Frank and I were in immediate danger.”
In his own interview with investigators, Garmback said that he instructed the younger Loehman on the “gun run” and talked about how he would drive the police cruiser from behind to surround the suspect without a chance to escape.
“I stopped him at that point and said, ‘This is a gun run. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Have your gun unholstered already on your lap,'” said Garmback, who broke into tears several times during the video interview as he recounted the moment he realized Rice was a child.
Even though Loehmann’s response was later determined to be a justified use of force under the circumstances, Loehmann faces disciplinary charges for failing to disclose earlier incidents from another police department that could have indicated his emotional instability on his officer application, while Garmback faces charges for bringing the police car too close to Rice. The police dispatcher has been suspended, while Garmback and Loehmann are still waiting for a decision on their charges.
Subodh Chandra, a lawyer who is representing Rice’s family, told Cleveland.com that the new videos could be a final opportunity for some accountability in the shooting that left a 12-year-old boy dead.
“As public anguish regarding young Tamir’s slaying continues, the physically impossible accounts and inconsistencies the officers offer in their video-recorded interviews raise the stakes for this last chance at public accountability through the absurdly delayed discipline process,” he said.