Today marks three years since the fatal shooting of 12-year-old, African-American child Tamir Rice. On November 22, 2014, a man called 911 to report that a “guy with a gun” was pointing it at people at Cudell Recreation Center. Within the two-minute call, the man had described the gun as “probably fake” and belonging to a “juvenile.” However, dispatchers did not relay these details to officers Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann. These dispatchers would later go undisciplined although, one dispatcher resigned from the department in July of 2016.
Garmback drove over to the gazebo where Tamir had been sitting, putting the cruiser within feet of the 12-year-old. According to Loehmann, instead of showing his hands, it appeared as if Rice was trying to draw his gun. Loehmann shot Rice within 2 seconds of the officers’ arrival. As Rice lay there bleeding on the snow-covered grass, Loehmann and Garmback stood there, not aiding the child in any manner. Four minutes later, an FBI agent out with another Cleveland police officer, would stumble upon the scene and provide the boy with medical attention until an ambulance arrived. The agent later told investigators that the officers “wanted to do something, but they didn’t know what to do.” Rice would suffer two gunshot wounds and die the next day.
In the wake of the shooting, protests had emerged in Cleveland and across the country as African-Americans began to grow angry at the rate at which black men were being killed at the hands of police officers. However, this fervor reached its peak days later after a grand jury had decided not to indict the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, another African-American male who had been unrightfully murdered. Rice’s death along with others sparked what is today known as the Black Lives Matter movement, an international activist movement whose mission is to “build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”
It would take three years for the officers in this shooting to face any consequences for their crime. In May 2017, Loehmann was fired for having lied on his job application and not disclosing that he had resigned from his previous position as a police officer in Independence, Mo. Whereas Garmback was found to have violated protocol when he drove a police car on grass during the incident. He was suspended for 10 days and was ordered to attend tactical training classes.
The manner in which the case of Tamir Rice unfolded in court was absolutely sickening. Out of the four officers involved in the murder of Rice, only two were punished for their crimes. Even these victories were unsatisfactory as neither of the men were held accountable for the death of Rice. Neither Loehmann nor Garmback were indicted as their choice to murder a CHILD was labelled a product of “human error.” Although the Rice family reached a $6 million settlement with the city of Cleveland and some institutional changes were made, the Rice family never truly achieved justice.
Tamir Rice will forever remain in the hearts of all the black women and men fighting for the lives of our children, our friends and the safety of our communities. Not only is today a day of remembrance for a soul who perished too soon, it is also a day of renewal. A renewal of our passion to keep pushing for justice even when it seems there will never be any change. The words of Martin Luther King Jr. continue to inspire me as I hold this quote close to my heart in the midst of tragedy; “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”
Source Image: Family of Tamir Rice