State officials appealed for calm yesterday after a jury decided not to charge a white police officer for shooting dead a 12-year-old black boy who was carrying a toy gun.
Patrolman Timothy Loehmann killed Tamir Rice in November 2014 outside a recreation centre in Cleveland, Ohio. Yesterday, small groups of protesters gathered there and at the Cuyahoga County Justice Centre where the grand jury voted not to indict Loehmann. Police erected metal barricades but steady rain seemed to stop more people joining the protests.
Prosecutor Tim McGinty announced Loehmann and his training officer would not be indicted because of “indisputable” evidence that Tamir was reaching for what the officers thought was a real gun in his waistband, and urged those who disagreed with the jury to protest peacefully.
“It is time for the community and all of us to start to heal,” he said.
Mayor Frank Jackson made a similar plea, as did Tamir’s family who condemned the jury’s decision but urged people to protest “peacefully and democratically.”
Outside the recreation centre, protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace!” Resident Art Blakey held a sign that read, “Indict, Convict, Send Killer Cops to Jail!” He said he was not surprised by the decision.
“There never has been any justice in these police murders,” he said. “We’re supposed to swallow these things as if this is business as usual.”
The jury had been meeting since mid-October to hear evidence. Mr McGinty said he recommended Loehmann and patrolman Frank Garmback not be indicted because they had no way of knowing Tamir was carrying a toy gun, modelled on a Colt pistol, that only shoots plastic pellets.
A video of the shooting recorded by a surveillance camera helped fuel the national Black Lives Matter protest movement that gathered momentum after black men were killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Officers in both those killings were also cleared of criminal charges by grand juries.