CLEVELAND -- A third expert on police use of force concludes that a white Cleveland policeman was justified in fatally shooting a 12-year-old black boy carrying a pellet gun.
A report from retired Florida police officer Ken Katsaris was released Thursday by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor. It comes as a grand jury hears evidence on whether patrolman Timothy Loehmann should be charged criminally for killing Tamir Rice outside a recreation center last November.
Katsaris wrote that Loehmann perceived a threat when he fired and his actions were reasonable given the circumstances:
This unquestionably was a tragic loss of life, but to compound the tragedy by labeling the officers conduct as anything but objectively reasonable would also be a tragedy, albeit not carrying with it the consequences of the loss of life, only the possibility of loss of career.
Katsaris also wrote about the replica gun, and the information relayed to the officers by the dispatcher after the 911 call:
The issue of the "possible fake" gun, and whether the officers were given that information or not, is also not relevant. Even if the officers were told the 911 caller said "it's possibly fake," the officers would also have been told the 911 caller reported "I don't know if it's real or not." The gun experience of the caller is an unknown, but we do know the caller still reported "it's scaring the [expletive] out of me," indicating he had a reasonable belief the gun was real.
Two other use-of-force experts hired by prosecutors also concluded that the shooting was justified.
Attorneys for Tamir's family have said the release of the reports is improper and have called for a special prosecutor to take over the case.
The killing of Tamir has become part of a national outcry about minorities, especially black boys and men, dying during encounters with police. His death was not the first to roil Cleveland, either: Earlier this year, a white officer prosecuted by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty was acquitted in the 2012 deaths of two unarmed black motorists killed in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire after a high-speed pursuit.
Cleveland and the U.S. Department of Justice are moving forward on a reform-minded consent decree after a DOJ investigation found Cleveland police had engaged in a practice of using excessive force and violating people's rights. That agreement was in the works before Tamir was killed.