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Outrage Brews in Police Shooting of 12-Year-Old
12/10/2014 2:29:03 PM

Demonstrators block Public Square, Nov. 25, in Cleveland, during a protest over the weekend police shooting of Tamir Rice. The 12-year-old was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer Nov. 22 after he reportedly pulled a replica gun at the city park. Photo: AP/Wide World photos
By Starla Muhammad

( – The video of Cleveland Police fatally shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice has angered residents and activists in the city. In a country already under a global microscope sparked by events in Ferguson, Mo. and a grand jury decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr., 18, this latest incident of an officer involved killing of a young, Black male has Cleveland on edge.

The video made public on Nov. 26 shows Tamir Rice being shot within 1 1/2 to 2 seconds of a patrol car stopping near him at a park in Cleveland Nov. 22. It shows the boy reaching in his waistband for what police discovered was a pellet gun that shoots non-lethal plastic projectiles. He died the next day. The police were responding to a 911 call from someone stating there was someone in the park with a gun.

The officer that shot Tamir was identified as Timothy Loehmann, 26 who has only been on the force since March 3. His partner, Frank Garmback, 46 has been on the force since 2008. Both officers are White.

Both officers are on paid administrative leave pending a decision by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office whether to pursue any criminal charges. The family is reportedly conducting its own investigation. A public viewing for Tamir was held Nov. 30 and his funeral is Dec. 3 at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.

Tamir’s family released an earlier statement that said in part that the police reacted quickly and the situation could have been avoided and they hope the Cleveland Police Department and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office thoroughly examines what happened. The family also asked for the community to remain calm and “protest peacefully and responsibly.”

“We understand that some of you are hurt, angry and sad about our loss. But let’s use those emotions in a way that will contribute to positive efforts and solutions that bring change to Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and cities across the nation as it relates to how law enforcement officials interact with citizens of color,” the statement said.

Area activists said this latest tragedy further reflects problems of police departments that do not racially and ethnically reflect the communities they serve in addition to lack of proper training and proper community engagement.

Long-time Cleveland activist Mariah Crenshaw told The Final Call when she heard about Tamir’s shooting and viewed the video she was angry.

This still image taken from a surveillance video played at a news conference held by Cleveland Police, Nov. 26 shows Cleveland police officers arriving at Cudell Park on a report of a man with a gun which turned out to be 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

“I was outraged because we have been fighting this for a long time. This is not a new fight. This is a very old fight,” said Ms. Crenshaw. She is frustrated with elected officials and accuses them of turning a “blind eye and deaf ear” to what is happening with police in the community. Deadly force has become the only method of apprehending Black people in Cleveland she argued.

The Cleveland NAACP released a statement that said the “ever-increasing tension between police and the citizens of Cleveland played a significant role” in Tamir’s death. The group also said proper training of officers is needed and that deadly force should be the last resort. A community forum to address police relations and gun violence was held Nov. 28, hosted by The Federation of Network Ministries and Cleveland Clergy Alliance in response to Tamir’s death.

Michael Muhammad, Nation of Islam Student Minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 18 in Cleveland said young people in the city already demonstrating in solidarity with Ferguson are also voicing their anger over the shooting of Tamir and also the death of Tanisha Anderson.

According to reports, Tanisha, 37 died Nov. 12 after she was slammed down face first onto the pavement by a Cleveland police officer who was trying to take her to a medical center for an evaluation. She suffered from mental illness and officers were called to her home by family members reporting she was disturbing the peace. She had been handcuffed and was not armed. There are conflicting accounts by police and family about what happened. The medical examiner is still trying to determine the exact cause of death. There have been protests downtown in front of City Hall, vigils and there are more demonstrations scheduled in response to continued police incidents.

Mr. Muhammad has seen an increased response in terms of activism from young people throughout the city.

Much of it is centered around the common thread of their frustration with the actions of the police continually shooting them down without giving them justice, without respecting their humanity and treating them like animals,” said Mr. Muhammad.

In Tamir’s case, the 911 caller reported that the gun was “probably a fake” and that the person with it was “probably a juvenile” but the dispatcher did not relay that information to officers.

Amir El Hajj Khallid A. Samad, of the Cleveland community based Peace in the Hood told The Final Call that some residents said the man who called in the report to 911 was familiar with Tamir and knew he was a child and had a toy gun. Mr. Samad like many others viewed the video footage of the tragedy in the park.

At a rally Tamir’s sister asked the question of why police could not have used the loud speaker or microphone in the squad car and speak to her brother from the protection of the vehicle to instruct him to put the gun down, said Mr. Samad. Young Black men he has talked to are raising that question too said the long-time community activist.

“One guy said it was almost like a drive by,” said Mr. Samad, referring to the action of the officers.

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