BREAKING: Cleveland Judge Finds Probable Cause in Tamir Rice's Death

June 11th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

A municipal judge in Cleveland has found probable cause to charge two police officers in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year, the New York Times is reporting.

In the surprising announcement, judge Ronald Adrine said he saw grounds to charge officer Timothy Leohmann with murder, manslaughter, and reckless homicide, the Guardian reports. Adrine also said that there was probable cause to charge Frank Garmback, Leohmann's partner, with negligent homicide. Although Leohmann shot and killed Rice on November 22, 2014, Garmback was present. 

The announcement came about by way of a little-used Ohio law which gives citizens "having knowledge of the facts" the opportunity to file an affidavit directly with the court, bypassing police and prosecutors in the process, according to the New York Times. But Adrine said Thursday that owing to a State Supreme Court rule, the court was not able to issue warrants for the officers' arrests without a prosecutor's filing, explaining that "this court determines that complaints should be filed by the prosecutor of the City of Cleveland and/or the Cuyahoga County prosecutor." 

Petitioners argued that they had "knowledge of the facts" after watching a video of Rice's killing, which went viral shortly after the incident last year. In the video, Rice can be seen holding a toy pellet gun in a park. A 911 call was placed stating that Rice was wandering around with the gun, but the caller did note that it could be a toy -- a fact that seemingly never made it from the dispatcher to the responding officers. Leohmann and Garmback apparently thought it was real, and within seconds of the patrol car pulling into the playground where Rice was, officer Leohmann shot and killed the 12-year-old.

Judge Adrine said of the video, in a 10-page ruling on Thursday, that he was "still thunderstuck by how quickly this event turned deadly," adding that Rice was given "little if any time" to comply with the officers, and that he made no "furtive movement." "Literally, the entire encounter is over in an instant," he wrote.


Rice family attorney Walter Madison told the Guardian that the announcement was a positive step. "We are very much relieved and it is a step towards procedural justice and people having access to their government," he said, adding that the decision illustrated that "the police are public servants and not the public's master." 

As the Times notes, the court's clout over influencing prosecutors to file a complaint on Adrine's recommendations is yet undetermined.