CLEVELAND — Nearly five years after Cleveland police shot and killed Tamir Rice outside Cudell Recreation Center, a citizens review board found officers improperly detained Rice's teenage sister following the deadly shooting.
"No one has ever said Tajai Rice was committing a crime, she was never charged with anything in juvenile court and she was considered a witness," said Michael Graham, Chairman of Cleveland's Civilian Police Review Board.
Tajai Rice filed her complaint months after the November 2014 shooting. In it, the then-14-year-old Rice said she was inside the rec center when someone told her police shot her brother. Rice said she "ran to comfort and assist Tamir," but was tackled by Cleveland police, then handcuffed and put into a patrol car just feet from where her brother lay dying.
"Prior to Tajai's statement to homicide, Tajai Rice was handcuffed from the rear, her clothing wet from having been taken to the snowy ground, and sitting in the rear of the zone car with the rear window open," an investigator told board members. He said Rice was left in the car, handcuffed for 75 minutes.
"She severely suffered because she was the third person on the scene after the officers," said Rice's mother Samaria. "Just watching him gasp for his life, they don't know if she could have saved his life. I think the whole system is broken and unfair and it's just ridiculous."
The investigation by the police department's Office of Professional Standards determined the detention of Tajai Rice was unreasonable, unwarranted and improper.
The board recommended the on scene supervisor, Sgt. Janelle Rutherford, face discipline. A final decision will be up to police administrators.
But Samaria Rice said the decision did not bring her satisfaction. She wanted the officer seen on surveillance video tackling and handcuffing her daughter punished. However, the board discovered any action against Officer Frank Garmback could amount to double-jeopardy.
"What we're being told is his case has already been resolved through a different process and that therefore we don't have jurisdiction over him," said Graham.
Garmback was suspended for 10 days for not employing proper tactics while driving the patrol car the day of the shooting. That suspension was later reduced to five days after an appeal.
"It's just absurd he's not going to get in trouble for nothing," said Samaria Rice. "I just don't understand."
"The system has been manipulated by the Division of Police to avoid accountability for Garmback and we still don't have an answer to why that is," said Subodh Chandra the attorney representing Rice's family.
Two Cleveland Police spokespeople have yet to respond to that allegation or to requests for comment on the board's findings.