The family of Tamir Rice — who was fatally shot by a Cleveland Police Officer in 2014 when he was 12 years old — is asking President Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) to reopen an investigation into his death.
Attorneys representing Rice’s family sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday asking him to reopen the probe, which the Trump administration officially closed last year.
The family hopes that the DOJ will thoroughly investigate the case and consider charging the officers involved in his death.
“The election of President Biden, your appointment and your commitment to the rule of law, racial justice and police reform give Tamir’s family hope that the chance for accountability is not lost forever,” the letter says. “We write on their behalf to request that you re-open this investigation and convene a grand jury to consider charges against the police officers who killed Tamir.”
Rice was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann after police responded to a report that a “guy with a pistol” was pointing it at multiple people on a playground. The caller noted that the gun was likely fake and that the guy was likely a minor.
Footage from the incident shows officers exiting the car and beginning to shoot. Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, have not been charged with a crime.
The DOJ began its investigation in 2015 after a local grand jury declined to bring charges against the officers.
The New York Times reported in October that the agency quietly abandoned the probe in August 2019 by denying requests to have the case presided over by a grand jury. Two months later, the DOJ announced that it ended the probe, finding issues with the quality of the footage that was examined.
Rice’s mother, Samaria Rice, who runs a foundation bearing her son’s name, says it’s still painful that no one has been held accountable for her son’s death.
“Tamir would have been 19 years old in June. I’m still in so much pain because no one has been held accountable for the criminal act that took his life,” Samaria Rice said. “I’m asking DOJ to reopen the investigation into my son’s case; we need an indictment and conviction for Tamir’s death. I’m building his legacy. The Tamir Rice Foundation is very invested in the community and dedicated to creating change.”
Zoe Salzman, an attorney representing Rice’s family, says the family has been pleading for someone to take the case seriously.
To “be fighting, day after day, year after year, for justice, and the case or some government system some system of justice, to take the case seriously to give it a fair chance to just apply the rule of law, and that has been denied again and again to the Rice family,” Salzman said.
The letter accuses former President Trump’s DOJ of producing a “self-serving memo to try to explain its decision by deceptively making this case seem complicated and difficult to prosecute.”
“The truth is that the actual facts, when stripped of pro-police bias, are indisputably straight-forward,” it reads.
The letter further asks Garland to “not turn a blind eye to what has occurred here,” and says the case needs to presented to a grand jury.
“This case deserves to be presented to a grand jury without the agenda of exonerating the officers,” the letter says. “Seek an indictment, and let the grand jury decide whether to do so. And, if they do, try the case so that this conduct can be judged impartially in a court of law, as justice requires.”
The plea from Rice’s family comes as the nation grapples with the conversation of police reform amid several high-profile deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
Seven years after Rice’s death, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for murder and manslaughter for kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, resulting in his death.
Meanwhile, the nation is grappling with the killing of Daunte Wright by former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer Kim Potter. She has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Biden administration has placed on hold its plans to establish a national policing oversight commission within Biden’s first 100 days in office, and has instead supported the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the House passed in March.