Justice Department Has Stopped the Civil Rights Probe Into Tamir Rice’s Killing, Didn’t Notify His Family

Over a year ago, the Trump administration quietly closed the civil-rights investigation into the police killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice. In 2014, Rice was fatally shot on a playground by a Cleveland officer for carrying an air pellet gun. The police officer, Timothy Loehmann, who almost immediately opened fire on Rice when arriving to the scene, was fired from the Cleveland Police Department, yet never suffered any criminal charges.

What We Know:

  • In August 2019, the Department of Justice shut down the investigation without any documents explaining why it was denied and without notifying Rice’s family or the public. Subodh Chandra, who represents the Rice family, disclosed the devastation of Tamir’s mother when she heard news of the closed investigation through media reports.
  • Lawyer David Z. Seide filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Department of Justice’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, for the mistreatment of the investigation. After Horowitz expressed to Seide that he would not be investigating his complaint, Seide reached out to The New York Times.
  • After a grand jury decided not to charge Loehmann in 2015, under Obama, the Department of Justice opened a federal civil-rights investigation at the request of the Rice family. The Justice Department then released a statement saying, “We will continue our independent review of this matter, assess all available materials and determine what actions are appropriate…”. In 2016, the Rice family received a settlement of $6 million, yet the DOJ remained quiet about the alleged investigation.
  • In 2017, the investigation was reassigned to two career prosecutors, Nick Reddick and Jared Fishman, who wanted to explore a different approach. The officer claimed he repeatedly warned Rice to raise his hands before firing any shots; the prosecutors hoped to analyze statements given by Loehmann and his partner to check for accuracy and possible obstruction of justice charges.
  • Prosecutors must get permission to use a grand jury to help collect evidence such as, subpoenaed documents or witness testimony. Reddick and Fishman wrote a 20-page case analysis memo with a request to conduct a grand jury investigation. The memo was turned into Robert Moossy Jr., a deputy assistant attorney general, who works alongside those appointed by Trump to run the civil-rights division. A request is usually denied within a few weeks, but the memo never met a response.
  • In 2018, an additional memo was submitted by the prosecutors and with more evidence proving that a grand jury investigation was necessary. Still, no response was received. This brought on suspicion from lawyers that political appointees were purposefully stalling.

Chandra speculates that because the officers made their statements in 2014 and 2015, prosecutors “slow-rolled the investigation” to allow the statute of limitations to expire and “let the officers get away with murder and obstruction of justice”.

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