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Tamir Rice Shooting: Judge Finds Probable Cause for Charges

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 12, 2015 11:09 AM

A Cleveland judge recommended criminal charges be filed against two police officers in the homicide of Tamir Rice. Rice was shot and killed by officers while holding a toy gun in a park last year.

While Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine could not issue arrest warrants, he did rule that probable cause existed to charge Cleveland Police Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback with multiple criminal charges.

But as always, it is now up to prosecutors to decide whether those charges will be filed.

Probable Cause

As noted above, the judge's ruling doesn't constitute actual charges filed against the officers, only that sufficient probable cause existed as the basis for charges to be filed. So while the ruling is a push in the direction of a criminal case against the officers, it doesn't guarantee that the officers will be prosecuted, let alone found guilty.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty will have to decide whether to file charges and which charges to file, and the case will likely go before a grand jury first. In a statement, McGinty said:

"This case, as with all other fatal use-of-deadly-force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury. That has been the policy of this office since I was elected. Ultimately, the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged."

Possible Charges

Judge Adrine found probable cause for multiple charges against the officers. For Officer Loehmann, who fired the shot that killed Rice, the judge ruled there was evidence to support charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, and dereliction of duty. And there was cause to charge Officer Garmback with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.

While the murder and homicide charges are felonies, Ohio law classifies dereliction of duty as a second degree misdemeanor. The officers could probably be charged under section E, which states, "No public servant shall recklessly fail to perform a duty expressly imposed by law with respect to the public servant's office, or recklessly do any act expressly forbidden by law with respect to the public servant's office."

Rice's killing became yet another flash point in ongoing tensions between Cleveland citizens and the police force, and activists have attempted to bypass prosecutors by asking the judge to order the officers' arrests.

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