NYT: DOJ Ends Civil Rights Investigation of Tamir Rice Killing After Years of Delays and Dysfunction
This article features Government Accountability Project and was originally published here.
The New York Times late last week reported that a years-long effort by some in the Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation into the killing of Tamir Rice by Cleveland police officers was ignored both under the Obama and Trump administrations, was plagued by dysfunction both on the federal and local level and was ultimately, quietly shelved last year.
In a further insult to the Rice family, Tamir’s mother Samaria Rice was told not by the DOJ itself but by reporters.
“When Samaria Rice heard the news, she cried out repeatedly, ‘I’m not ready for this!’” Subodh Chandra, one of the attorneys who have worked for the Rice family on the case, told the Times. “The federal investigation was her last hope for justice. Accountability was so important to her and her family.”
While a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann for shooting and killing the teenager, deciding to agree with the recommendation of former Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty that found the shooting was justified, the Rice family had held out hope that the Feds would bring justice through a civil rights investigation.
That won’t happen, and based on the report by the Times, there’s blame to go around everywhere, and it’s only becoming public now because a whistleblower complaint was filed.
Current and former officials familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, described a dysfunctional and delayed effort. They spoke in response to inquiries by The New York Times after it learned that David Z. Seide, a lawyer representing a person familiar with the case, filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, accusing the department of mishandling the matter.
Mr. Seide, a senior counsel at the Government Accountability Project, which assists whistle-blowers, approached The Times after the inspector general’s office informed him last week that it would not investigate the complaint.
People working the case had wanted to impanel a grand jury to seek and hear evidence in the case, the Times wrote. But memos imploring superiors went ignored.
Those in favor of the grand jury were also stymied by local Feds who didn’t have an appetite to revisit the case and local authorities in possession of original reports and evidence who didn’t hand them over.
While some involved hoped to discover “whether Officer Loehmann and his partner had given statements whose accuracy was subject to scrutiny for potential obstruction of justice charges,” others seemed content to run out the clock on the statute of limitations, according to the report.
Though the case is all but abandoned, “another department official, defending its handling of the Rice investigation on the condition of anonymity, noted that the matter was still not technically closed and suggested that the department might, in theory, someday change course and empower prosecutors to use a grand jury after all.”
In other words: Fat chance.