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Family of 12 year-old boy killed holding pellet gun say his death could have been avoided

November 28, 2014  |  Posted by: Giovanni DePhillips
Family of 12 year-old boy killed holding pellet gun say his death could have been avoided Image courtesy of tvcnews.tv

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The family of a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer said surveillance video of the shooting shows that if the officer was not so quick to act the boy would still be alive.

The video was released to the public on Wednesday showing 12 year-old Tamir Rice being shot within 2 seconds of a patrol car stopping him at a park in Cleveland on Saturday.

It apparently shows the boy reaching in his waistband for what police discovered was a pellet gun that shoots non-lethal plastic projectiles.

Image courtesy of wkyc.com

Image courtesy of wkyc.com

Rice died from his injuries the next day.

Tamir’s family said in a statement released by their attorneys that they hope Cleveland police and Cuyahoga County prosecutors “thoroughly examine” what happened at the park that faithful day.

“It is our belief that this situation could have been avoided and that Tamir should still be here with us,” said the family. “The video shows one thing distinctly: the police officers reacted quickly.”

The police officer who shot Rice was identified Wednesday as Timothy Loehmann, a 26-year-old rookie who began his career in Cleveland on March 3.

Loehmann’s partner has been identified as Frank Garmback, 46, who has been on the force since 2008.

Both are on paid administrative leave pending a decision by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office whether to pursue any criminal charges.

Much of the video footage shows Tamir in a park alone, He is seen pacing, occasionally extending his right arm with what appears to be a gun in his hand, talking on a cellphone and sitting at picnic table with his head resting on his arms.

However, the gun wasn’t real. It can be purchased at sporting goods stores for less than $20.

The air pellet gun was lacking the orange safety indicator usually found on the barrel and, from a distance, is hard to tell the difference from a real firearm.

In the video, Rice is seen sitting on a picnic table in a gazebo, as He stands, a police car zooms into the video from the right and stops on the grass, just a few feet from Tamir.

Loehmann exits the vehicle and shoots Tamir before Garmback can get out the driver’s side door.

The video is unclear how far Tamir was from Loehmann when the officer shot him, but Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said Wednesday that it was less than 10 feet.

The low-resolution video appears to show Rice reaching to his waistband and then bending over after being shot.

His body is obscured by the patrol car the moment he fell to the ground.

Garmback can be seen walking around the car and kicking what is said to be the airsoft gun away from Tamir.

Tomba told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that an FBI agent who was working a bank robbery detail nearby arrived within a few minutes and administered first aid to Tamir.

Paramedics arrived minutes later, the boy died on Sunday at a Cleveland hospital.

Tomba said the city was releasing the video at the request of the boy’s family.

“This is not an effort to exonerate. It’s not an effort to show the public that anybody did anything wrong,” Tomba said. “This is an obvious tragic event where a young member of our community lost their life. We’ve got two officers that were out there protecting the public that just had to, you know, do something that nobody wants to do.”

Before the tragic incident, a person had called 911 about a male pointing a gun at others at the park.

The caller is heard telling the 911 dispatcher that the gun was “probably fake,” then added, “I don’t know if it’s real or not.”

Tomba refused to discuss the statements the two officers gave after the shooting, saying they were part of the investigation.

Nor would he discuss details of the radio conversation between the officers and a dispatcher except to say they were apprised that they were on a “gun run.”

David Malik, one of the attorneys representing Tamir’s family, said Wednesday that he hoped the shooting of Tamir would lead to reform.

He cited Cincinnati, where he said the police department, police union and the community worked collaboratively.

“Hopefully, incidents like this won’t occur again,” Malik said.

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