Police expert defends Tamir Rice killing in latest report

W. Ken Katsaris, a retired Florida police officer, is the third expert to say the police shooting that occurred last November in Cleveland was justified.

Courtesy of Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A./AP/File
Tamir Rice, shown here in an updated photo, was fatally shot by police in Cleveland after brandishing what turned out to be a replica gun last November.

A white Cleveland police officer had no choice but to fatally shoot a 12-year-old black boy carrying a pellet gun, an expert on police use of force said in a report released publicly Thursday by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.

Retired Florida police officer W. Ken Katsaris is the third expert who has concluded that patrolman Timothy Loehmann was justified in shooting Tamir Rice outside a Cleveland recreation center Nov. 22, 2014.

The release of the latest report comes at a time when a county grand jury is hearing evidence from prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Mr. Loehmann, who was a rookie a year ago, and his training officer, patrolman Frank Garmback.

"This unquestionably was a tragic loss of life," Mr. Katsaris wrote. "But to compound the tragedy by labeling the officers' conduct as anything but objectively reasonable would also be a tragedy."

Katsaris testified for the prosecution at the trial of white Cleveland patrolman Michael Brelo, who was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter for firing the final 15-rounds of a 137-shot barrage that killed two unarmed, black people at the end of a high-speed chase three years ago. A judge acquitted Mr. Brelo of the charges in May.

Attorneys for the family of Tamir Rice have been incensed by the release of the expert reports and have called for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take over the case. The attorneys have said the experts, including Katsaris, are clearly biased in favor of police.

"Regrettably, with the release of yet another utterly biased and shamelessly misguided 'expert report' the County Prosecutor is making clear his intention to protect the police from accountability under the criminal laws, rather than diligently prosecute them," attorney Jonathan Abady of New York said in a statement Thursday.

Mr. McGinty said his office hasn't reached any conclusions about the case or what recommendation he will make to the grand jury.

"It would be premature for me to announce any final decision on charging," he said in a statement.

McGinty has come under fire for his recent remarks that the Rice family has "economic motives" in their continued calls for justice. The boy's mother, Samaria Rice, has a federal lawsuit pending against the two officers and the city of Cleveland. A group of rabbis and ministers earlier Thursday called for activists to continue "nonviolent actions" if McGinty refuses to relinquish the case.

The deaths of Tamir Rice and other black males at the hands of police in other cities have sparked outrage and the creation of the national Black Lives Matter protest movement. Tamir's death has drawn an especially strong response because of grainy, choppy footage from a surveillance camera that shows the boy being shot by Loehmann within two seconds of a cruiser skidding to a stop near the boy. McGinty on Thursday released more footage of the shooting captured at a different angle farther away.

Police officials said initially that Loehmann yelled three times at Tamir to raise his hands. Investigators from the county sheriff's office said there was no proof that Loehmann said anything to the boy. The officers had responded to a 911 call reporting that a man was pulling a gun in and out of his pants and was pointing it at people. The caller also said the gun might not be real and that the man might be a teenager.

Katsaris said in his report that while that information should have been passed on to the officers, it's ultimately not relevant.

"It is simply obvious that the officers had a reasonable belief that Rice was armed," Katsaris wrote.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.