The police murder of Tamir Rice

A "Perfect Storm"... of White Supremacist Violence and Racist Justifications

January 4, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Tamir RiceTamir Rice was a 12-year-old playing in a park who was gunned down by police in Cleveland, Ohio on November 22, 2014.

On December 28, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced his grand jury’s decision not to indict officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for murdering 12-year-old Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014. McGinty declared that the shooting of this unarmed, innocent, and defenseless child by two cops was a “reasonable” police action.

Grand juries are “creatures” of prosecutors. They exist to—among other things—provide political cover when prosecutors want to do something controversial: “It wasn’t me, it was the ‘grand jury.’” A common joke in legal circles goes: “A prosecutor could get the grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if he wanted it to.”

But in this case prosecutor McGinty definitely did NOT want the grand jury to indict these pigs. In the face of plain-as-day video evidence of murder, he spent over a year working to exonerate the cops, including by hiring bogus “experts”—in reality, pro-police hacks, one of whom had been publicly remonstrated by the U.S. Justice Department for twisting facts and distorting the law in order to cover for the cops in a previous high-profile shooting case. (See “EXPOSED! The Prosecutor’s ‘Expert Reports’” at for more on this.) When McGinty was forced to allow testimony to the grand jury from experts who refuted his bullshit, one of his assistant prosecutors actually went into the “well” with the grand jurors, and sat there ridiculing and laughing at them as they testified!

“A Perfect Storm”

Yes there's a conspiracy, to get the cops off

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In trying to justify this outrageous decision, McGinty said that Tamir’s death resulted from:

 “...a perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunication...”

NO. Tamir’s death resulted from “a perfect storm” of the white supremacist violence on which this country was built and which has drenched it in blood from the times when millions of Africans were kidnapped, enslaved, tortured, and murdered to accumulate the foundations of American wealth and power, to the latest police murder in Chicago... in Los Angeles... in a hundred towns and cities across this empire of theft and slaughter known as America.

It was “a perfect storm” of a racist view that, as a “default,” perceives every Black person as “dangerous,” and sees any loss of Black life as having no weight compared to the importance of preserving the status quo of inequality and injustice... of the forging and unleashing of police who act as occupying armies in neighborhoods of the oppressed, and who are happy to recruit certifiable mad dogs like Timothy Loehmann to patrol those neighborhoods... of the slow genocide that increasingly sees Black people not just as bodies to be exploited, but as “a problem” to be gotten rid of.

As to “miscommunication”—McGinty, the grand jury, and the media, the latter of which for the most part have followed dutifully along, reporting this outrage as if it were “justice,” are communicating their message very clearly, to the people and to the 1.1 million law enforcement officers in the U.S., as well as to the armed “civilian” racists like George Zimmerman, who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. The message is: It is perfectly “reasonable” to “shoot first, ask questions later” when dealing with Black people, even children, rather than run the slightest risk of injury, or even “disrespect,” to one of the enforcers of this system, or to any white person... period.

Chronology of a Racist Murder

Is it going too far to say this? Let’s walk through the murder of Tamir Rice from the beginning and see.

The Call: Around 3 pm, a man called 911 to report someone, “probably a juvenile,” pointing a “probably fake” gun at people near a park playground.

Stop right here—if you have looked at the video of Tamir before the police arrived, it is completely obvious that you are seeing a child at play. Tamir walks back and forth, sometimes pointing the gun, sometimes putting it down, sometimes throwing snowballs, obviously in his own world. If Tamir were white, that is exactly what anyone would have seen, ordinary child’s play. But in a society where Black youth are routinely portrayed as criminals to be tased, handcuffed, arrested, thrown across classrooms—even as young as six years old—this bystander, who did realize that Tamir was probably a child, perceived an “emergency.”

The Police Radio Dispatch: At 3:26 pm, a police dispatcher put out a call for officers to respond to someone with a gun. She provided a vague description that pretty much came down to “subject is a Black male,” and neglected to include that he was probably a child and that the gun was probably a fake. Garmback and Loehmann were among several cops who answered, and they sounded extremely eager to be first on the scene.

According to McGinty and other defenders of the police, the dispatcher’s omission of crucial information played a significant role in Tamir being shot. And yet, there has been no indication that this dispatcher has been fired, disciplined, or even reprimanded in the 13 months since this happened. Apparently, a gross violation of dispatcher protocols that leads to the death of a Black child is just an “oops” in the minds of the authorities!

The Approach: Garmback drove the cop car into the park on the grass. From across the park they could see Tamir sitting at a table under a gazebo. It is important to note that they did not even know if Tamir was the subject of the 911 call, particularly since he was no longer in the playground where the 911 caller had located him. They were viewing from a distance, and the description they had was vague. No weapon was visible (we know now that Tamir had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband for the whole time the police were on the scene). There was no one else in the area, no “incident” going on—i.e., even if Tamir had a real gun, there was no one around to be endangered by it.

So essentially, all that the officers knew was that Tamir was a Black person sitting by himself, doing nothing wrong, near the location where they had heard there might have been a Black person with a gun some time earlier.

Knowing almost nothing about the situation, the cops could, without any risk to themselves or others, have approached slowly, and from a safe position questioned Tamir—and in fact, this is official police protocol for what to do in situations like this. If they had placed the slightest value on Tamir’s life, they would have done that.

The Shooting: But the cops did not pause—they raced their car across the grass, skidding to a halt. As this was happening, Tamir got up and—hands still empty—began walking casually towards them. As they approached Loehmann unholstered his gun, and before the car had fully stopped jumped out, and within 1.7 seconds fired two shots, fatally wounding Tamir.

It is clear from this that the decision to shoot Tamir was made as the car approached, and before they could possibly know who he was or what, if anything, was going on, other than the fact that he was a Black person. Even if, as the cops claimed, both of them were shouting “show us your hands” (from their vehicle, which was moving and which had the windows closed), this wouldn’t change anything because Tamir could not have heard them, and in any case, Tamir never did anything threatening.

The cops initially claimed that Tamir drew his “gun” and they shot in response to that. When the existence of video footage was revealed, they altered their story to say that he moved his hand in the direction of his waistband, and then moved it up. Some experts have reasonably argued that this arm motion occurred after Tamir was shot and was a response to being shot.

Reality check: Codifying racism...

But even if you accept the cops’ version, what does it say that the movement of an empty hand, up, down or sideways, is a valid reason for murdering someone? It says exactly what we are saying here, that this shooting reflected the outlook that any Black person who may in the remotest way evoke fear in the minds of some racist cop, can be “reasonably” executed.

(We should note here that it is frequently stated—in informal police accounts, in the so-called “expert” reports that the prosecutor fed to the grand jury and to the media, and in media coverage in prominent venues like Good Morning America and the Wall Street Journal—that Tamir was “holding” or “pointing” the toy gun, even though the video long ago proved this to be false.)

The cops also claim that they did not know that Tamir was a child because the dispatcher had not relayed that information, and because, though he was only 5 ft. 7 in. tall, he weighed 195 lbs. (In a pro-police CNN account, this fearsome child “grew” to 6 feet tall.)

The first point we have to make is that they were in a park, by a playground, next to a youth center—an area where mostly children are present. So the burden was on them to be sure Tamir wasn’t a child before murdering him. As to his weight, this is just more racist bullshit. Everyone knows adolescents who are big for their age. The way we identify children is not just by size, but by looking at their faces, and the way they carry themselves. But to do that, you would have to care whether he was a child or not, and these cops obviously did not.

The Moments After: And if you still doubt that racist dehumanization ruled the day, look at how these cops reacted after shooting Tamir, as he lay bleeding, in pain, dying, on the sidewalk. They offered neither first aid nor comfort. When Tamir’s 14-year-old sister ran towards him, they tackled and handcuffed her, and forced her into the back seat of their patrol car, a few feet from where her brother lay dying. When his mother arrived and became upset that her son had been shot, they threatened to arrest her. They treated Tamir and his family as savage beasts to be controlled, not as human beings.

Communication: The system has again communicated to the people, in no uncertain terms, its determination to continue to unleash murderous police against Black and Brown people, in the service of preserving their whole oppressive set-up, and that 99 percent of the time these police will be protected from justice no matter how horrific their crimes. We should really “hear” that message and not kid ourselves or be duped by crocodile tears or by promises of “reform,” and we should respond accordingly, with the fiercest resistance possible to these murderers, and with urgent revolutionary preparation to bring about and seize on the time when this cruel system can be done away with once and for all.



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