The US Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that it would close the case into the police-involved shooting death of Rice since the agency had concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring federal criminal charges against both Cleveland officers.
At the center of the case was whether Loehmann had acted unreasonably under the circumstances and had exhibited willful actions during his encounter with Rice at the Ohio park.
According to statements from both officers, Loehmann repeatedly ordered Rice to drop the pellet gun, which officers at the time took it to be a real firearm as a result of the 911 dispatcher not telling the pair of the possibility that the reported “guy” was a juvenile, and that the alleged firearm was not a real gun.
However, within seconds of the encounter, Loehmann discharged his firearm and fatally shot Rice in the abdomen. Loehmann and Garmback both maintained that Rice was shot after he appeared to be reaching for the toy gun, which did not have the orange tip that Airsoft pellet guns typically include.
Although surveillance footage was captured by cameras installed near Cleveland’s Cudell Park Recreation Center, investigators ruled that the recording “is grainy, shot from a distance, does not show detail or perspective, and portions of the incident are not visible because of the location of the patrol car.”
As such, officials say that they are not clearly able to conclude whether Rice did or did not reach for the toy gun.
Officials stated the footage also includes no audio, which fails to prove whether officials did or did not issue commands, and that since it is a timelapse recording, “there is no foundation to establish the precise timing from image to image.”
“Thus, even when the video was enhanced to the still frames, there are unknown time gaps of up to a full second between each frame,” reads the department release. “The video and the corresponding still frames are incapable of capturing the nuances of continuous action.”
Ultimately, DoJ officials concluded that “the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Loehmann willfully violated Tamir Rice’s constitutional rights, or that Officers Loehmann or Garmback obstructed justice.”
The agency further indicated that Rice’s family was informed of their ruling on Monday, and that an explanation into the decision was provided on Tuesday to their legal representatives.
A grand jury in 2015 refused to indict either Loehmann and Garmback on criminal charges.
Loehmann was fired from the Cleveland Police Department after investigators discovered he was deemed “unfit for duty” during a previous stint with the police force in Independence, Ohio. Garmback was suspended for a period of 10 days for violating tactical rules that stemmed from how he drove onto the site where Rice was killed.
Rice’s death on November 22, 2014, came at a time of several high-profile killings by white police officers of black Americans, including that of Missouri resident Michael Brown and New York resident Eric Garner. Widespread outrage over the killings helped to galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement.