World Bulletin / News Desk
A white U.S. police officer was justified in fatally shooting last year a 12-year-old black boy who was carrying what turned out to be a toy gun in Cleveland, according to two investigators looking into the case.
The conclusions, reached separately by a retired FBI agent and a Colorado prosecutor, were published Saturday night by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Timothy J. McGinty, whose office oversees the city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Tamir Rice was shot Nov. 22 by rookie police officer Timothy Loehmann because he believed the boy was carrying a gun, which turned out to be a replica airsoft gun that shot plastic pellets.
Surveillance video of the shooting showed Tamir was pointing the toy gun at a passer-by at a playground, which prompted an emergency call to police. It took the officer less than two seconds after exiting his patrol car to shoot the preteen two times. He later died in hospital.
"There can be no doubt that Rice's death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking," wrote Lamar Sims, a senior chief deputy district attorney in Denver, Colorado.
"However, (...) I conclude that Officer Loehmann's belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat," he added.
The reports came ahead of an expected grand jury gathering that will decide on possible criminal charges against the officer.
Kimberly A. Crawford, the retired FBI agent, wrote in her report that the actions of the 12-year-old "could reasonably be perceived as a serious threat" by Loehmann.
"If the hands move in the direction of a 'high-risk area' -- an area where a weapon may be concealed, such as inside a jacket, towards the waistband of pants, or under the seat of a car, well trained officers will immediately identify this as a serious threat," Crawford said, adding that the officer was forced to make "a split-second decision" and "his response was a reasonable one".
Tamir's death was among a string of police-involved killings of black suspects including Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York and Freddie Gray in Baltimore that have stirred racial tensions and set off nationwide protests over perceived injustices within the U.S. justice system.
"We are not reaching any conclusions from these reports," McGinty said in a statement. "The gathering of evidence continues and the Grand Jury will evaluate it all," he added.Last Mod: 12 Ekim 2015, 09:21