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DOJ Declines To Prosecute Cleveland Officers In Death Of Tamir Rice

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The Department of Justice is closing its investigation into the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice six years ago - closing the investigation with no charges against the police officers involved. Taylor Haggerty with member station WCPN reports.

TAYLOR HAGGERTY, BYLINE: Tamir Rice was fatally shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann while playing with a toy airsoft gun in a Cleveland park in November 2014. Loehmann and Officer Frank Garmback were responding to a report that someone had been pointing a possible firearm at park visitors. Loehmann and Garmback say they issued commands for Tamir to put his hands up, according to the DOJ, and saw him reaching for what they believed to be a gun before Loehmann fired two rounds, killing the boy. Subodh Chandra, the attorney representing Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, says the family found out the case would be closed through reporting from The New York Times and The Washington Post. He says those reports say career prosecutors called for a grand jury investigation, which has not happened.

SUBODH CHANDRA: Miss Rice feels that it was blatantly disrespectful that she had to learn from the media that the Department of Justice had shut down the investigation after career prosecutors had recommended that a grand jury be convened.

HAGGERTY: But the DOJ says career prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. For that, the DOJ says evidence would need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Rice was not reaching for the toy gun and would need to prove that Loehmann did not perceive him reaching for it. The Justice Department says investigators could not prove or disprove those claims and also didn't have evidence to support charges for obstruction of justice. Henry Hilow, the attorney representing Officer Loehmann, says he concurs with the decision from the Department of Justice, which lines up with previous rulings at the county level.

HENRY HILOW: Nothing else need to be said. They reviewed the matter, and they came to that conclusion.

HAGGERTY: But Chandra is calling on the Department of Justice to release written internal recommendations from career prosecutors. The family is also calling for investigation into political interference with the case. If the Trump administration does not respond to the requests, Chandra says they will follow up with the incoming Biden administration.

For NPR News, I'm Taylor Haggerty in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.