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Report alleges U.S. Department of Justice mishandled Tamir Rice investigation

Tamir Rice
Posted at 6:24 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 18:52:47-04

CLEVELAND — The attorney for Tamir Rice's family, the 12-year-old Black boy shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in 2014, said they were “stunned” by The New York Times report alleging the U.S. Department of Justice mishandled the investigation into his death.

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

Rice’s mother, Samaria was upset by the report and "not ready" to discuss it Friday, according to Subodh Chandra, the Rice family’s attorney.

“She has been really still clinging on to this thread of hope that somehow the U.S. Department of Justice might do what other branches of government have failed to do, which is to hold the officers accountable,” said Chandra.

News 5 confirmed David Z. Seide, an attorney representing a person familiar with Rice’s case, filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Justice Department’s Inspector General.

The complaint, filed last August, accused the department of mishandling the civil rights investigation.

Seide, senior counsel at the Government Accountability Project, a nonpartisan group that protects whistle-blowers, approached the newspaper after being informed last week the inspector general’s office declined to investigate the complaint, according to both Seide and The Times.

The New York Times report said career prosecutors asked to use a grand jury to gather evidence for their investigation in 2017. It said supervisors then “let the request languish for two years before finally denying permission in August 2019.” Their decision essentially meant the investigation was over.

However, the department failed to inform the Rice family it had no plans to charge Timothy Loehmann, the former CDP officer who shot Rice, or anyone else.

Chandra, a former federal prosecutor, said he only learned about the allegations when a Times reporter called him Thursday afternoon.

Chandra said he requested the DOJ investigate Rice’s case over concerns about how former Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty handled its investigation into the shooting.

Chandra pointed to information the officers were allowed to read written statements in front a grand jury, a highly unusual move.

“That never happens for any target of a criminal investigation in this county or anywhere in America,” he said. “Apparently, it doesn’t happen unless you are a Cleveland police officer.”

The officers were not indicted. A spokesperson for current Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley had no comment.

Rice’s death sparked protests in Cleveland and became part of the national debate over race and policing.

Loehmann shot Rice immediately after he and Officer Frank Garmback, who was driving their patrol car, pulled into the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s West Side.

Rice was carrying a pellet gun that looked real and a 911 dispatcher failed to tell CDP officers that it might be a kid carrying a toy gun.

In 2016, the City of Cleveland settled a lawsuit with Rice’s family for $6 million. Loehmann was fired in 2017. Officer Garmback remains on the force, according to city spokesperson Nancy Kelsey.

Kelsey declined our request for an on-camera interview or statement.

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