Tamir Rice, a name you may have heard of, especially in the light of recent events. Equally, this may be a name you’ve never heard. In this blog post we are going to tell his story. Tamir Rice was born on the 25th of June 2002 in Cleveland Ohio. He was athletic and at school was described as a “pleasant young man”.
On the 22nd of November 2014, officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback responded to a call that a male was in a recreational park pointing a gun at people. The caller twice said that they thought the gun was fake and that the male was ‘probably a juvenile’. The dispatcher failed to pass this information onto the officers who were attending the scene. The dispatcher also asked 3 times what colour skin the ‘man’ had. The two officers arrived at the scene and within 2 seconds had shot Tamir Rice, he later died in hospital. He was just 12 years old, the gun he had was a toy which was missing the orange tip that would have made it stand out as a toy. The officers took 2 seconds to decide that Tamir Rice was a risk and killed the 12 year old. At no point did Tamir physically or verbally threaten the police officers. Tamir was shot before the police car responding to the incident had even stopped moving.
In the confusion of the incident Tamir’s 14 year old sister ran towards her brother after he had been shot. She was subsequently tackled to the ground, handcuffed and put in the back of the police car. Given that it only took 2 seconds to shoot Tamir, it took police 4 minutes before they began to administer first aid to him.
Timothy Loehmann had been with Cleveland Police for 9 months. Prior to this he had spent 5 months with a police department elsewhere. He had resigned from his original post in anticipation of being dismissed as it was reported that he lacked the emotional stability to be a police officer. There had also been an incident during weapons training where he had shown a ‘dangerous lack of composure’. He failed to disclose this when he applied for the job with Cleveland Police Department. On May the 30th 2017 he was dismissed from Cleveland police department for failing to disclose the fact that his previous police department had found him unable to cope as an officer.
Frank Garmback was driving the police car that arrived at the scene on that day in November 2014. We don’t know all that much about Garmback, but what we do know does paint a rather grim picture. He has been a police officer since 2008, in 2014 the Cleveland Police Department paid $100,000 to settle an excessive force lawsuit brought against him. Garmback rushed and placed a woman in a chokehold, tackled her to the ground, twisted her wrist and began hitting her body. The woman had actually called the police herself to report a car blocking her driveway.
It’s clear that these two officers were completely incompetent and unable to do their jobs in a manner that is befitting of police officers commissioned to protect the people of Cleveland Ohio. There is however one more character in this story who is equally as responsible for the death of Tamir Rice. The 911 dispatcher.
Despite being told that the person was ‘possibly a juvenile’ and the gun was ‘possibly a fake’ twice the 911 dispatcher, Constance Hollinger, did not feel that was important enough to pass on to the officers responding to the scene. Constance also felt that it was so important to know the skin colour of the juvenile with the fake gun that was playing in a park that she asked the caller 3 times to confirm if the person was black or white.
On December 28th 2014 it was decided that no one would face criminal charges in relation to the death of Tamir Rice. Despite the fact that no one thought it important to pass on the information that Tamir was a child, with a fake gun. Despite the fact that Loehmann had shot Tamir within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene, and despite the fact that he couldn’t even wait for his car to stop before firing those fatal shots. No criminal charges have been brought.
The 911 dispatcher Constance Hollinger received an 8 day suspension without pay, while the Rice family lost their 12 year old son, the most seriously punished person in this whole scenario only received an 8 day suspension from work.
This case is a catalogue of failure that has a truly tragic ending. Tamir Rice had his whole life ahead of him, yet he was taken at just 12 years old. This case is one of the more glaring indicators of the issue of institutional racism. Trevor Noah said (when referring to another case) in what walk of life can you murder someone at work knowing that the worst consequence you could face is possibly losing your job. In this case 3 people, to differing levels, are directly responsible for the death of a 12 year old boy. The worst punishment any of them faced was an 8 day suspension from work.
This was written with the intention of honouring Tamir Rice, taken at the tender age of 12 for playing in the park with a toy gun. It is our intention that these posts will continue to raise the profile of these stories in order to bring about real change.
Thank you for reading!
The image of Tamir Rice we used is a family handout.
We used a number of news articles as sources for our information. These can be found here: