Tamir Rice’s mother hopeful support from Cleveland mayor-elect could help reopen investigation

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – The mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot and killed by a Cleveland Police officer in 2014, is expressing her gratitude for the new public and vocal support of Cleveland Mayor-elect Justin Bibb.

“It’s never too late for justice,” said Rice. “I’ll be fighting until the last breath in my body because I’m Tamir’s voice. He needs justice, he deserves justice.”

Bibb tweeted, “Seven years ago, Tamir Rice was killed while playing with a toy gun. I join Cleveland City Council, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and others in calling on the Department of Justice to reopen the investigation.”

The 12-year-old was shot and killed while holding an air soft pellet gun in 2014.

The DOJ closed its investigation in late 2020 citing insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges against the two officers involved.

The Rice family attorney, Subodh Chandra of The Chandra Law Firm LLC, said the original investigation was not a fair process.

“Implied in his call for the Department of Justice to reopen and renew its investigation is a recognition that the Rice family was cheated of any sort of fair process by the county prosecutor,” said Chandra. “For example, the county prosecutor gave the officers who were supposedly targets of criminal investigation, special treatment… they were allowed to go before the grand jury, take the oath and then read pre-written statements without undergoing any cross examination whatsoever. That just doesn’t happen.”

A spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said requests for comment would need to be directed to the preceding administration.

Rice and Chandra both stated the new support from the incoming Cleveland mayoral administration is appreciated.

Rice said in the years since her son’s death, she never had a conversation with Mayor Frank Jackson. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

“There was no support from Mayor Jackson,” said Chandra. “If anything, it seemed to be that, while there were some occasionally healing words uttered, for the most part, there seemed to be a general sense of hostility to the Rice family projected by the prior administration. I mean, for example, the mayor never requested to actually speak with Ms. Rice. Never spoke with her.”

Chandra said the DOJ investigation was distorted and should be reopened.

“News reports indicate that there was a career prosecutor, there were career prosecutors in the Civil Rights Division who recommended that a grand jury investigation proceed,” said Chandra. “Unfortunately, those career prosecutors’ recommendations were not heeded and we would have never found out, by the way, because the Department of Justice violated the federal statute that requires them to keep the victims’ families informed.”

Earlier this year, Rice sent a letter to the DOJ and met with officials there, asking for the investigation to be reopened. She is hopeful the new spotlight from Bibb could one day lead to charges in the shooting death of her son.

“It means a lot to me. It means people have not forgotten and people wants to see this family have justice,” said Rice.

The officer who fatally shot Rice, Timothy Loehmann, was fired in 2017 for putting false information on his application. Cleveland Police did not respond to requests for comment. 

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