Many Errors by Cleveland Police, Then a Fatal One


Samaria Rice, right, with her daughter Tajai at Cudell Commons in Cleveland, where her son Tamir was killed by a police officer. Credit Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times
CLEVELAND — It began with a swap: one boy’s cellphone for another’s replica of a Colt pistol.

poem-truth-casino-inconvenient-truth2“One of the boys went to play in a nearby park, striking poses with the lifelike, airsoft-style gun, which fired plastic pellets. He threw a snowball, settled down at a picnic table and flopped his head onto his arms in a perfect assertion of preteen ennui, a grainy security video shows.

Then, with the gun tucked away, he walked to the edge of the gazebo. He might have been wandering aimlessly, or he might have been attracted by the sight of a squad car barreling across the lawn.

But the boy, Tamir Rice, was only 12. Now, with the county sheriff’s office reviewing the shooting, interviews and recently released video and police records show how a series of miscommunications, tactical errors and institutional failures by the Cleveland police cascaded into one irreversible mistake.”

mike3“…Within two seconds of the car’s arrival, Officer Loehmann shot Tamir in the abdomen from point-blank range, raising doubts that he could have warned the boy three times to raise his hands, as the police later claimed.

And when Tamir’s 14-year-old sister came running up minutes later, the officers, who are white, tackled her to the ground and put her in handcuffs, intensifying later public outrage about the boy’s death. When his distraught mother arrived, the officers also threatened to arrest her unless she calmed down, the mother, Samaria Rice, said.

mike-brown…Officers Garmback and Loehmann did not check Tamir’s vital signs or perform first aid in the minutes after he was shot.”

…In 2011, a helicopter video captured police officers kicking Edward Henderson in the head even though he was spread-eagled on the ground. None of the officers admitted to wrongdoing, and none were fired, though the video showed them “kicking his head like a football,” said David Malik, a prominent civil rights lawyer who won a $600,000 settlement for Mr. Henderson, who suffered a broken facial bone.

Mike BrownMr. Malik said the city’s discipline and arbitration system heavily favored officers, making it difficult to punish misconduct. “It’s a culture of no consequences,” said Mr. Malik, who has filed or investigated potential lawsuits against the Cleveland police on more than 100 occasions.

Nearly two years after the assault on Mr. Henderson, more than 60 police cruisers and one-third of the city’s on-duty force engaged in a high-speed chase after officers mistook a car’s backfiring for gunfire. It ended when officers killed the two unarmed occupants by firing 137 rounds into their vehicle.


A memorial near where Tamir Rice played basketball. Credit Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times
post4The deadly chase also spurred calls for a new Justice Department investigation. Released in December, that study found a pattern of excessive force, suggesting that the police were often hostile with residents and were rarely held accountable for misconduct.

Ms. Rice, 38, is awaiting explanations, and an apology. “Nobody has come to knock on my door and told me what happened,” she said. “Somebody has to be held accountable.”


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