Investigators have not found any evidence that a Cleveland police officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice ordered him to raise his hands before opening fire. Rice was shot dead within seconds of the officer's arrival.
Documents released by the prosecutor handling the controversial case of Tamir Rice detailed the moments before last year's deadly encounter in Cleveland, Ohio.
Surveillance footage showed police officer Timothy Loehmann firing two shots seconds after his police cruiser skidded to a stop near 12-year-old Rice. Autopsy records indicate he was struck by only one of the bullets. Rice died the next day in hospital.
Cuyahoga County sheriff's detectives investigating the shooting wrote, however, that it was unclear if Loehmann had shouted anything to Tamir from inside the cruiser before opening fire - such as ordering him to put his hands up. Local police had previously said that Loehmann had asked Tamir three times to raise his hands, and had only opened fire when the boy reached for the pellet gun tucked in his waistband.
Officer insists he had no choice
"He reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do," the responding officer quoted Loehmann as saying immediately after the bloodshed. The officer who responded to the shooting also told investigators that Loehmann was "very distraught" after realizing how young the boy was and that he was clutching a replica firearm.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he was disclosing the findings in the interest of transparency.
"The death of a citizen resulting from the use of deadly force by the police is different from all other cases and deserves a high level of public scrutiny," he said. McGinty explained that the case, as with all police shootings, would be taken to a grand jury to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback.
Judge recommends charge of 'negligent homicide'
Earlier this week, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine found probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. He recommended charging Garmback with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
Tamir Rice's death is one of a series of recent cases involving the use of deadly force on African Americans that sparked protests and outrage across the US. Tamir was black; Loehmann and his partner are white. Loehmann and Garmback have also been criticized for not giving Tamir first aid after the incident.
Loehmann and his partner were responding to a 911 emergency call about a man with a gun at the time. Investigators were told that Tamir used the airsoft gun, which shoots non-lethal plastic projectiles, to shoot at car tires earlier that day.
A federal judge earlier this week approved an agreement between the city of Cleveland and US Department of Justice (DOJ) aimed at reforming the city's police department. After an 18-month investigation, the DOJ concluded the department had shown a consistent practice of using excessive force and violating people's civil rights.
ss/bk (Reuters, AP)