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November 24, 2014

Another sad police shooting surely not "justified," but will it get excused in Ohio?

Especially as the news media continues to await a grand jury outcome in Ferguson, this new sad story out of Cleveland of a seemingly mistaken use of defensive force is likely to become the next national story about police use of excessive force.  This New York Times report, headlined "12-Year-Old Boy Dies After Police in Cleveland Shoot Him," provides these basics:

Officials in Cleveland were investigating the police shooting of a 12-year-old boy who died on Sunday, a day after an officer shot him outside a recreation center when he reached for a weapon that turned out to be a fake pistol.

The boy, Tamir E. Rice, died on Sunday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County medical examiner’s office said. He was shot in the torso at a park on Saturday after witnesses reported that he was waving a gun around and pointing it at people, the police said.

Two police officers responded to the scene and ordered the boy to raise his hands, the police said, but he refused and reached for a gun in his waistband. An officer fired two shots, striking the boy once, the police said.

In a 911 call released by the police, a man said that “a guy” who appeared to be a juvenile was pointing a pistol at people and scaring them. The caller said twice that the gun was “probably fake.”

“There is a guy with a pistol,” the caller said. “It’s probably fake, but he’s pointing it at everybody.” The police were investigating what information from the call was relayed to the officers, said Jennifer Ciaccia, a police spokeswoman. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office was also investigating the shooting....

The shooting happened about 3:30 p.m. at the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s west side, the police said.  Deputy Chief Ed Tomba of the Cleveland police said on Saturday that the boy had not threatened the officers or pointed the weapon at them.

The police learned that the gun was fake after the shooting, Ms. Ciaccia said.  The weapon was an “airsoft” replica gun resembling a semiautomatic pistol, with the orange safety tip removed, the police said.  “It looks really, really real, and it’s huge,” Ms. Ciaccia said

November 24, 2014 in Notable real cases | Permalink


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I was listening to the radio on my way to school this morning and they were talking about this case. The radio hosts were focusing on the fact that the caller had told the police that it was probably a fake gun, but as the story mentions, it's not known yet what the officers themselves were told (by dispatchers).

It's obviously horrible when a 12-year-old kid gets killed. The lawyer for the family highlighted that: "This is a 12-year-old boy. This is not a grown man. I’d think you would handle situations with children differently than you would with an adult." I'm not saying the police handled it correctly, but the fact he was only 12 doesn't mean that it couldn't have been a real gun. There have been 12-year-old school shooters in the past: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/boy-faces-juvenile-charges-new-mexico-school-shooting-article-1.1581852

It'll be interesting to hear more about what actually happened at the playground. According to the Times article, the police chief said Tamir didn't point the gun at the officers or threaten them. But, it also says that when officers told Tamir to put his hands up, he refused and instead reached for the gun. If those are the facts, I could definitely see the officers being excused. While the officers turned out to be mistaken, if they reasonably believed that Tamir posed a risk of serious physical harm to them or others, then they didn't violate the Fourth Amendment. Krause v. Jones, 765 F.3d 675, 680 (6th Cir. 2014) And that has to be viewed from the officers' perspective, given what they knew at the time, not from a 20/20 hindsight view. Id.

Posted by: Jason Manion | Nov 24, 2014 5:46:39 PM

I just read most of (and skimmed the rest of) the new Justice Department report on the Cleveland Police Department that came out yesterday.


The Justice Department has been investigating the CPD for a couple years now, and concluded that the CPD has a pattern and practice of using unconstitutional force. Among the findings are a lot of examples of Cleveland police being too quick to shoot/tase people (without trying lesser means of force).

The substance of this report makes me a little less sympathetic to the police officers in the Tamir Rice case, especially given some of the other evidence I've seen since my initial comment.

I am curious about whether the timing of the Justice Department report has anything to do with the Tamir Rice shooting. The investigation has obviously been ongoing for quite awhile now, but I wonder if there was some added urgency or other pressure to release it now.

Posted by: Jason Manion | Dec 5, 2014 9:00:30 AM

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