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Cleveland police supervisor suspended for detaining Tamir Rice's sister after 2014 police shooting

Posted at 7:02 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 19:47:12-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Public Safety Director Karrie Howard suspended a police supervisor for detaining Tamir Rice's sister after the 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by an officer nearly six years ago.

Howard's decision reverses Police Chief Calvin Williams determination no discipline should be issued against Sgt. Janell Rutherford.

Howard suspended Rutherford for two days without pay, according to Mark Graham, Cleveland Civilian Police Review Board Chairperson. The CPRB had appealed Williams' decision.

Howard also downgraded the charge to "unsatisfactory performance." Rutherford was initially charged with "improper detainment."

Graham announced Howard's decision during the last few minutes of the Cleveland Civilian Police Review Board's monthly meeting Tuesday morning.

The review board concluded Rutherford violated CDP policies when she supervised the scene at Cudell Recreation Center after Rice was shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann on Nov. 22, 2014.

After running to the scene, Rice's sister, Tajai, then 14, was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and placed into the back of a police cruiser.

The CPRB recommended a six to 10-day suspension after the city’s Office of Professional Standards investigated Tajai Rice's complaint about the treatment she received.

Capt. Brian Betley, Fraternal Order of Police union president, said the union will appeal Howard's decision.

Betley said it is unfair to only hold Rutherford accountable for Tajai Rice's detention. He said she was one of four supervisors at the scene. He said she notified supervisors who outranked her approximately five minutes after she learned Tajai Rice was being detained. He said the other supervisors have since retired and can no longer be punished.

Rice's shooting death sparked large protests in Cleveland and has become part of the national conversation surrounding racism and police-involved shooting deaths.

Just days after Rice's death, the U.S. Department of Justice announced its investigation into the Cleveland Division of Police found the department engaged in a pattern and practice of excessive force. The USDOJ investigation led to the City of Cleveland signing a consent decree to implement massive reforms. The consent decree currently still remains in effect.

Tajai Rice was inside Cudell Recreation Center when her brother was shot. Surveillance video shows her running toward her brother, who was on the ground after he was shot.

The video shows Officer Frank Garmback knock Tajai Rice to the ground and put her in the back of the police cruiser next to her dying brother. Her 2015 complaint said she was in the police cruiser for more than an hour, during which she watched emergency workers attempt to save her brother's life.

News 5 spoke with Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, Wednesday. She had no comment on Howard's decision.

Subodh Chandra, the Rice family attorney, shared the following statement:

"What’s tragic for the Rice family is that the city never held Officer Frank Garmback meaningfully accountable and that he continues to be entrusted with a badge and a gun, that the city fired Loehmann only for lies and not for killing a child, and that the current county prosecutor never held accountable the prosecutors who failed to cross-examine those officers in the grand jury."

In December 2015, a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to charge Loehmann and Garmback. Chandra asked the DOJ to investigate how Cuyahoga County prosecutors handled the grand jury investigation.

Last month, Chandra said he and Rice's family were “stunned” by a The New York Times report alleging the U.S. Department of Justice also mishandled the investigation into his death.

RELATED: Report alleges USDOJ mishandled Tamir Rice investigation

The report said DOJ officials “quietly quashed” a civil rights investigation into Rice's death more than a year ago, but never told Rice’s family the investigation was effectively over.

The City of Cleveland fired Loehmann for lying on his police application. Garmback was suspended. He remains on the force.

Rice and her family settled a civil lawsuit with the City of Cleveland for $6 million.

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