Justice Department quietly quashes probe into Tamir Rice killing

Justice Department quietly quashes probe into Tamir Rice killing
© Family photo

The Department of Justice (DOJ) last year quietly ended its investigation into the 2014 police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The newspaper noted that no steps were taken to formally close the case, such as informing Rice's family why no charges would be filed, but the probe was effectively abandoned in August 2019.

The attorney representing Rice’s family, Subodh Chandra, said Rice’s mother, Samaira Rice, was devastated upon hearing the news.

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“The federal investigation was her last hope for justice. Accountability was so important to her and her family,” Chandra told the Times.

Rice was shot by officer Timothy Loehmann after police responded to a call about someone playing with a gun at a park. The 911 dispatcher failed to inform the officers that Rice's pellet gun, which looked real, might have been a toy being used by a minor.

Loehmann was fired from the Cleveland Police Department in 2017 but has not been charged with any crime.

Career prosecutors asked the DOJ in 2017 to have the case presided over by a grand jury to collect evidence, but in August 2019, two years after the request, the department denied the request. Such requests are usually responded to in a matter of weeks, the Times noted.

Prosecutors Jared Fishman and Nick Reddick had planned to pursue charges of obstruction of justice by analyzing Loehmann and his partner's statements for inaccuracies, according to the newspaper. The statute of limitations for obstruction charges is typically five years, meaning the statements from the officers are nearing that limit.

Sources told the Times that the case stagnated largely because Ohio officials were reluctant to pursue a case against Loehmann. Another factor was the slow rate at which local officials turned over evidence to the DOJ’s civil rights department.

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“It was devastating to learn that this supposedly ‘law-and-order’ administration defied the judgment of career prosecutors, slow-rolled the investigation to let the statute of limitations run out, hid from the crime victim’s family its decision not to prosecute, and let the officers get away with murder and obstruction of justice,” Chandra said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rice’s death was one of several that sparked protests that led to the Black Lives Matter movement.