Group seeks charges against Cleveland cops in boy's shooting

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Citizens Call for Arrests in Death of Tamir Rice
CLEVELAND (AP) — A group of activists, clergy and attorneys went to court Tuesday to try to get two white police officers charged in the fatal shooting of a black 12-year-old boy holding a pellet gun, but a legal expert and even the attorneys pushing for the action say that the case must go through a grand jury to obtain a felony indictment against the officers.

The group filed affidavits in Cleveland Municipal Court asking that a judge rule there is probable cause to charge and arrest the officers in the Nov. 22 death of Tamir Rice outside a recreation center. Tamir was shot within two seconds of a police cruiser skidding to a stop near him.

The filing is based on an obscure section of Ohio law that allows private citizens who are aware of criminal activity to seek charges in court. A Cleveland law school professor said Tuesday that the group's effort does not "substitute for the grand jury."

Lewis Katz of the Case Western Reserve University Law School said that while he understands the frustration and impatience of Tamir's family and others, the court filing is more about making headlines than the pursuit of justice. Charging the officers, he said, would be more symbolic than substantive.

"It would not be a meaningful victory," Katz said.

Group members held a news conference in front of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center that focused on what they perceive as delays in prosecuting Tamir's case and long-existing problems of blacks and minorities receiving unequal, abusive and sometimes deadly treatment from police, and how officers largely go unpunished when they kill or maim someone. Several speakers questioned whether rookie patrolman Timothy Loehmann would have shot Tamir had he been white.

"We're saying there's enough probable cause to charge them with a crime that we've identified," Cleveland civil rights attorney and NAACP official Michael Nelson said earlier Tuesday. Charges against Loehmann, his training officer and the driver of the cruiser, patrolman Frank Garmback, could range from aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, to negligent homicide, a first-degree misdemeanor, Nelson said.

The group's court filing comes less than three weeks after a judge in Cleveland acquitted a white patrolman charged with voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 deaths of two black suspects after a high-speed chase. The prosecution of Michael Brelo in that case is a credit to Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty, who was willing to take a use-of-force case against a police officer to trial, Katz said.

The city asked the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department to investigate Tamir's shooting in January. The sheriff last week said his office had completed the investigation and had given county prosecutors the case.

A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office said Tuesday that said the investigation isn't finished and that evidence and expert analysis will be presented to a grand jury when the probe is completed.

The head of Cleveland's largest police union issued an incendiary statement on Tuesday about the group's effort to have the officers charged and arrested.

"It is very sad how miserable the lives of these self-appointed activists, civil rights leaders and clergy must be," wrote Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, adding: "Civilized society cannot permit the rule of law to be subverted by mob rule."

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Group seeks charges against Cleveland cops in boy's shooting
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/11/22: Kids with Tamir Rice signs. Stop Mass Incarcerations Network sponsored a children's march demanding accountability on the one year anniversary of Tamir Rice's death at the hands of the Cleveland police. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/11/22: Stop Mass Incarceration Network co-founder Carl Dix with sign. Stop Mass Incarcerations Network sponsored a children's march demanding accountability on the one year anniversary of Tamir Rice's death at the hands of the Cleveland police. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 23: People march in protest to the Cuddell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed, in reaction to Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo being acquitted of manslaughter charges after he shot two people at the end of a 2012 car chase in which officers fired 137 shots May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. After leading police on a 20-mile chase, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot dead after Officer Brelo jumped onto the hood of the car and unleashing a fatal barrage of gunfire. on May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 23: People march in protest to the Cuddell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed, in reaction to Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo being acquitted of manslaughter charges after he shot two people at the end of a 2012 car chase in which officers fired 137 shots May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. After leading police on a 20-mile chase, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot dead after Officer Brelo jumped onto the hood of the car and unleashing a fatal barrage of gunfire. on May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 23: People march in protest to the Cuddell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed, in reaction to Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo being acquitted of manslaughter charges after he shot two people at the end of a 2012 car chase in which officers fired 137 shots May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. After leading police on a 20-mile chase, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot dead after Officer Brelo jumped onto the hood of the car and unleashing a fatal barrage of gunfire. on May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 20: Cory Webb, 24, raises a sign on the corner of E. Roadway as demonstrators protest police violence December 20, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 20: An unidentified woman raises a sign to protest police violence December 20, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Protestors from Ferguson travelled to Cleveland to rally against the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 21: Demonstrators march on Euclid Ave. in the Playhouse Square district December 21, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Protestors gathered to voice opposition to the shooting death of 12-year old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland police officer. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 21: Demonstrators march on E. 9th Street December 21, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. For the second straight day protestors gathered in downtown Cleveland to voice opposition to excessive use of police force. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: Rev. Al Sharpton (C) leads the 'Justice For All' march in the nation's capital with the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo and other unarmed black men who were killed by police, December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Organized Sharpton's National Action Network, this march and other like it across the country aim to tell Congress and the country that demonstrators will not stand down until there is systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct. Sharpton said the demonstration is happening in Washington 'because all over the country we all need to come together and demand this Congress deal with the issues, that we need laws to protect the citizens in these states from these state grand jurors.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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