Although a grand jury declined to indict the two Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty wasn’t exactly acting like a someone who had suffered a major legal failure.
At a press conference on Monday, McGinty made no secret of the fact that he agreed with the decision, admitting that he had recommended to the grand jury that it not indict officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.
The prosecutor had already attempted to convince the grand jury not to indict the men, commissioning expert reports that called their guilt into question and then leaking those reports to the media. As The Huffington Post’s Cristian Farias wrote, McGinty “turned the grand jury in the Tamir Rice case into his plaything.”
But on Monday, he didn’t merely suggest that the police officers’ use of force against Rice was justified. He selectively used information to excuse and defend their actions, and implicitly blamed the unarmed African-American boy who was killed — something that is all too common in police killings.
Here are some of McGinty’s most questionable claims and observations:
Timothy Loehmann was a ‘reasonable’ police officer.
McGinty characterized Timothy Loehmann — who shot Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene — as a “reasonable” police officer. The grand jury also declined to indict Frank Garmback, who drove Loehmann in the police cruiser.
“The Supreme Court instructs to judge an officer by what he or she knew at the moment, not by what was learned later,” McGinty said. “We are instructed to ask what a reasonable police officer, with the knowledge he had, would do in this particular situation.”
But McGinty failed to explain that Loehmann’s perception of what was “reasonable” may have been questionable.
After five months on the job, Loehmann quit the police force of the Cleveland suburb of Independence, Ohio, in December 2012, days after a deputy police chief recommended his dismissal. The deputy police chief based his recommendation on a firearms instructor’s report, obtained by NBC News, that Loehmann was experiencing an “emotional meltdown” that made his facility with a handgun “dismal.”
“They put a police officer in this situation who had a history of mental health problems,” said Michael Benza, a criminal law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “It may not have been ‘reasonable’ for him to shoot given his mental issues.”