It’s not surprising that no one will be punished for the death of Tamir Rice. Since the youngster’s killing, the police, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty, and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson have refused to do anything except look for ways to sweep it away in hopes that it will be forgotten, just like previous similar acts of lethal aggression against Black people.
The report stated Rice’s death was caused, “by the failure…to exercise due care to avoid injury.” In other words, the 12-year old boy caused his own death. The Mayor apologized, not for the killing, but for the words used to describe the cause of the killing. Rice was shot for holding a toy gun 1.7 seconds after the cops pulled up to his location in a park. No warning, no command to drop the gun, and no attempt to speak to Rice; they shot first—immediately, and now we are asking the questions.
McGinty described the events leading up to Tamir’s death as a tragic series of errors and “miscommunications” that began when a 911 caller said a male who was “probably a juvenile” was waving a “probably fake” gun at people in a park. Has there been any disciplinary action issued against the 911 dispatcher for not relaying the entire message to the cops?
The fact that those caveats never reached Officer Timothy Loehmann — who shot the child within two seconds of arriving on the scene — was more than just an administrative misstep. Like the 911 call that led to John Crawford’s death in an Ohio Walmart, for holding a BB gun, not “pointing” it at customers as the caller said, Rice’s instantaneous execution reflects an utter disregard for Black life. That disregard began with Officer Loehmann’s work history and emotional state not being fully vetted before he was given the power of life and death over the citizens of Cleveland.
Wanton violence against people who pose no threat to the police was on full display in a particularly striking case in 2012. Officers mistook the sound of a car backfiring for a gunshot, thus, according to The Guardian, causing 104 of the 277 Cleveland officers on duty that night to get involved. Cops chased down and fired 137 bullets into the vehicle, killing Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, who were unarmed.
Regarding the last series of shots fired by Officer Michael Brelo, who said his life was in danger yet, in Rambo style, jumped on the hood of the car and started firing, Judge John O’Donnell said, “I cannot find beyond a reasonable doubt which of the fatal wounds he caused.” Oh, I get it. New defense: Fire as many shots by as many cops as possible so no one can determine which cop fired the fatal bullet. Everybody walks.
That’s almost as good as the invention of the “Affluenza” defense (rich kid in Texas kills four people with automobile and gets probation), which suggests that rich folks are less responsible for their crimes than the rest of us because their actions are somehow skewed as a result of having too much money. Here’s a thought: How about “Pofluenza” as a defense for “Po” folks?
As for Tamir Rice, there are some who are unafraid. City Councilman, Jeff Johnson, has demanded that the Cleveland Law Department do a full review and file charges of negligent homicide against the officers involved in Tamir’s death. Also, Basheer Jones held a press conference with a coalition of various organizations, to outline their demands in response to what they label as “Tamir Rice injustice,” and promised there will be civil disobedience in response to the killing.
In contrast, other folks are asking LeBron James to refuse to play until justice is done. That will never happen, and even if it did it would have little effect except for news value. They should be calling on the folks who attend the games and pay millions to see James play. Oh yeah, they’d get some justice then. Money talks; T-shirts walk.
If police officers were required to have personal malpractice insurance, for instance, not paid by the municipality but by themselves, and if court awards had to be paid by insurance companies rather than by taxpayers, maybe there would be fewer killings. (See www.iamoneofthemillion.com and read Plank #3 of our political platform)
Injustice can and does lead to violence in return, and it could ultimately be one reason for young people turning to terrorism. While some naively think jobs will stop terrorism, a report, “The Age of the Wolf,” cited an 18-year old boy who stated, “I did not join the Taliban because I was poor; I joined because I was angry.”
There is a lot of anger out there about our broken criminal justice system. I believe economic responses will accelerate the process of repairing it.