In a statement given on Monday and read before a grand jury in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the police officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland just over a year ago said he “continuously” shouted “show me your hands” in the moments before he decided to fire at Rice.
Security footage of the park where Rice was shot on Nov. 22, 2014, showed that Officer Timothy Loehmann opened fire about 1.7 seconds after jumping out of the police cruiser in which he and his partner, Frank Garmback, had pulled up to the scene. The two officers had been told by a 911 dispatcher that a black male matching Rice’s description was at the park with a gun. It was not until after Rice was shot that the officers discovered that he was a child who had been playing with a toy gun.
Whether Loehmann—who was sitting in the passenger seat of the cruiser while Garmback drove—will face criminal charges in connection with Rice’s death will be determined by a grand jury that has been hearing testimony in the case since October. Their decision—which will arrive at a time when police shootings, particularly those involving white officers and black civilians, have become the subject of urgent national debate—will turn on whether or not members of the grand jury think Loehmann’s use of deadly force was justified.
It’s unclear how close the grand jury is to making a decision, or whether Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty will recommend that they hand down an indictment or not. In recent weeks, however, police accountability advocates have expressed dismay in response to McGinty releasing three reports, written by law enforcement experts from around the country, that concluded Loehmann had acted “reasonably” in using deadly force against Rice.
The statement from Loehmann, which was given under subpoena and made public Tuesday by McGinty, takes pains to underscore that the officer tried to use his words before he used his firearm. “As the car was approaching, the suspect turned towards our car,” Loehmann said. “Officer Garmback attempt[ed] to stop the car as the male turned towards the car. The car’s antilock brake rumbled as [the] car slid to a stop. As [the car] slid, I started to open the door and yelled continuously ‘show me your hands’ as loud as I could. Officer Garmback was also yelling ‘show me your hands.’”
According to the statement, Loehmann saw Rice lift his shirt and reach “down into his waistband,” as he and Garmback “continued to yell ‘show me your hands.’”
“Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn’t fire,” Loehmann said in the statement. “I still was yelling the command ‘show me your hands.’”
Loehmann’s statement did not say how much time he thinks might have elapsed between the moment when he and his partner issued their first verbal command to Rice and the moment when Loehmann fired his service weapon.
In a separate statement that was also given Monday, Garmback seemed to offer a response to critics who have questioned his decision to pull up mere feet from a person he believed to be armed, instead of stopping the cruiser at a safe distance and taking cover while trying to deescalate the situation. “The cruiser did slide when I applied the brakes,” Garmback said in his statement. “I am not sure how far. The car did not stop where and when I intended.”