A Cleveland Municipal Court judge has found probable cause that police officer Timothy Loehmann should face murder and other charges in the slaying of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Judge Ronald B. Adrine released the opinion Thursday afternoon, days after a group of local clergy and activists filed affidavits asking the court to find probable cause to arrest Loehmann and Frank Garmback on aggravated murder, murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty charges.
The judge did not find probable cause that either officer should be charged with aggravated murder. Adrine also determined that there was not probable cause to charge Garmback with murder.
But the judge found probable cause for charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against Loehmann.
He also found probable cause for charges of negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against Garmback.
Adrine forwarded his opinion to city prosecutors and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty.
Activist Rachelle Smith, a member of the group that filed the affidavits, said Thursday that she was pleased with the judge’s recommendation.
“This isn’t the end of the road, but it’s a step and it’s encouraging,” she said.
The Rice family also welcomed the opinion.
“We are grateful that the wheels of justice are starting to turn,” they said in a statement.
Edward Little, a criminal and juvenile justice consultant and a member of the group that filed the affidavits, said Adrine’s opinion has made him “hopeful justice will take its course.”
The affidavits were filed using an obscure Ohio law that allows any citizen with knowledge of the facts of a case to formally ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant.
Adrine did not order the officers to be arrested. The judge can’t issue a warrant unless a criminal complaint from a prosecutor exists, according to the opinion.
Still, Rice family attorney Walter Madison called the judge’s opinion “historic” and said it is an example of the citizens having a direct impact on the justice system.
“It’s a blueprint for the rest of the nation,” Madison said. “I can’t underscore the significance of today enough.”
The affidavits cited the surveillance footage captured at Cudell Recreation Center on Nov. 22 that shows Loehmann gun down Rice as Garmback brought the officers’ patrol car to a stop within feet of the boy.
Adrine said the video was “hard to watch.”
“After viewing it several times, this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly,” Adrine’s opinion says.
Loehmann ordered Rice three times to show his hands from the patrol car’s ajar passenger door, police said. He then shot Rice within two seconds of springing from the car, the video shows.
“There appears to be little if any time reflected on the video for Rice to react or respond to any verbal or audible commands given from Loehmann and Garmback from the zone car between the time that they first arrived and the time Rice was shot,” according to the opinion.
The court filings were a move to force the judicial system to quickly confront the case.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department forwarded its investigation of the shooting to the prosecutor’s office last week after a five-month investigation.
The prosecutor’s office will review the case, conduct additional investigations if needed and present the facts to experts for feedback before delivering the evidence to a grand jury. That process could take weeks or months.
McGinty’s office released a brief statement on the ruling.
“This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement, will go to the Grand Jury,” McGinty wrote. “That has been the policy of this office since I was elected.”
When asked to comment, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association president Steve Loomis responded by sending a text message to Northeast Ohio Media Group that included only a photo of a replica gun. Rice had a toy gun on him when he was killed. A safety tip identifying the gun as a toy had been removed.
Loomis has criticized efforts to charge the two officers, and has said in numerous media appearances that he believes the shooting was justified.