Prosecutors in Ohio have released the statements from the police officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014 and his partner. In his unsworn statement on 30 November, Timothy Loehmann claimed he "knew it was a gun and it was coming out" before he shot the boy and that he repeatedly warned Rice to put his hands up.
The statements given by Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department were released by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. ABC News reported that this is the first time the officers's accounts of the events have been made public. Rice was holding a toy gun when he was allegedly shot by Loehmann in November 2014.
Loehmann claimed in his new statement that he was aiming at the boy's weapon after he and his partner responded to a report of a "male waiving [sic] a gun and pointing at people". He said that he saw the suspect put something into his waistband. As the boy turned towards the officers' patrol vehicle, Loehmann claimed: "[I] yelled continuously 'show me your hands' as loud as I could."
The officer said Rice "appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds". "The suspect lifted his shirt reached down into his waistband," he said. "We continued to yell 'show me your hands'. I was focused on the suspect. Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn't fire. I still was yelling the command 'show me your hands'." He later described the encounter as an active shooter situation.
"I had very little time as I exited the vehicle... I observed the suspect pulling the gun out of the waistband with his elbow coming up," Loehmann said. Video footage of the shooting shows Rice being shot less than two seconds after the patrol car door opens, ABC News noted. Loehmann said he fired two shots, aiming at the object in Rice's hand.
Loehmann's statements were corroborated by Garmback, who said that he saw Rice pull the gun "from the right from area of his waistband. I thought the gun was real." Garmback said the two officers directed Rice to show his hands and that he too believed the boy was over 18 years old.
An investigation by the sheriff's office found that there were no witnesses close enough to the scene of the shooting to back up the officers' claims that they issued verbal commands to Rice before the shooting. According to ABC News, a grand jury is hearing evidence to determine if any charges will be filed against the officers.
The attorney for the Rice family, Jonathan Abady, slammed the fact that the statements had been unsworn. "Allowing defendant police officers to submit unsworn statements in response to grand-jury subpoenas that call for their live testimony is again a stunning irregularity further tainting these proceedings," he said. "No regular target of a criminal investigation would be afforded this opportunity."