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What's behind Tamir Rice ruling

Posted at 7:30 PM, Dec 28, 2015

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty cited a U.S. Supreme court ruling that guided his office's recommendation not to seek criminal charges against two Cleveland police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

In a 1985 case involving Tennessee vs. Garner, the Supreme Court held that under the Fourth Amendment, police can use deadly force "when the officer has probable cause to believe a suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or others."

FULL COVERAGE: Tamir Rice Shooting

McGinty said the grand jury had to reach its judgment based on what police officers "knew at the time" and said "there was indisputable evidence" that Rice was reaching for what appeared to officers as a real gun—only to learn moments later that it was, in fact, a toy.

McGinty also pointed to extensive "enhanced" video and photographs of the crime scene that he believes shows Rice reaching into his waistband.

Prosecutors also conceded that it "was unclear whether Tamir heard the warning by police" to put his hands in the air—but insisted that the law involved does not require police to be certain that a warning is heard if they believe their life is in danger.

In one crime scene photo, McGinty pointed to the weapon that was found on the sidewalk—strongly suggesting that Rice had reached for the gun and dropped it after he was shot.

In another example, McGinty pointed to video that he says shows the officers had retreated to a "defensive position" behind their police cruiser after Rice was shot because they had seen a weapon and continued to believe it was a real gun.

In addition, McGinty also found that police policies and tactics were followed in the case because—at the time—both officers believed it was an "active shooter" situation and they responded appropriately.

Information that Rice "may have been a juvenile" and it "might be a fake gun" never reached officers who responded to the scene.

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