I’ve given up trying to understand why incidents like the shooting of Michael Brown turn into media supernovas while incidents like this, where there’s actual video evidence of cops behaving badly, are distant starbursts worthy of intermittently recurring coverage. (Same goes for this horrendous shooting in South Carolina, which made waves on the Internet for a day or two before receding into background noise.) The Tamir Rice shooting has received enough attention that you probably know the basics: Rice, black and all of 12 years old, was spotted pointing a gun at people in a city park. The 911 caller told the dispatcher twice that the gun was “probably fake” — but the dispatcher never relayed that detail to the responding officers. As it turned out, it was fake. It was an Airsoft pellet gun, albeit with the orange safety tip removed to make it appear more real. Maybe the cops would have been able to tell that if they’d spoken to him or maybe not. As you’ll see, everything happened in a flash: Rice starts walking towards them as they roll up, no more than five or six feet away, and puts his hand on the pellet gun in his waistband. That was awfully foolish, but go figure that a 12-year-old might behave foolishly. Within two seconds of arriving on the scene, Officer Timothy Loehmann, who’d been pushed out of his job at another police department for “breaking down emotionally while handling a live gun,” fires at Rice and drops him. He and his partner claim that they warned Rice to put his hands up, but given the lack of audio and the speed with which the confrontation happened, there’s no way to know. Up to that point it’s all a tragic accident, although one that might have been avoided if they’d confronted him from more of a distance — say, 15 or 20 feet instead of five.
How to explain what happens next, though?
The surveillance tape also seemed to clarify an issue in the shooting investigation: that the officers provided no immediate medical assistance to Tamir, who was not pronounced dead until more than nine hours later at a Cleveland hospital. An autopsy by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner later found that Tamir died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. In addition, it confirmed the account that Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, gave in the weeks after the shooting, that the police had tackled and detained her daughter as she rushed out of the recreation center, trying to reach her brother’s side…
After the second Cleveland officer, Frank Garmback, subdued Tamir’s sister — he pushed her to the ground back-first, tumbling on top of her in the process — the girl was handcuffed and put in the back of the police cruiser, a few feet from her brother.
The officers stood by without tending to Tamir, the extended video showed. It was not until four minutes after the shooting, the video showed, that Tamir received medical assistance when another man was seen bent down next to him.
You’ll see Rice’s 14-year-old sister enter the frame from the left at 1:42. You can understand why the cops would need to restrain her, so that she doesn’t interfere with the first aid they’re administering. Except … they’re not administering first aid. As far as I can tell, neither one so much as bends down to check on Rice before his sister races in. The closest they come is when Loehmann’s partner, Office Frank Garmback, races around from the driver’s side and into the gazebo, presumably to secure the area. After about 80 seconds, at around 1:35, Garmback takes a few steps towards Rice but, as far as I can tell, he never so much as kneels down to get a closer look. Loehmann remains standing at the rear of the squad car for the duration. Once Garmback moves to the left to intercept Rice’s sister, Loehmann finally moves to join him. He eventually wanders over towards Rice and spends a few seconds near him but, like Garmback, seems to take no action. Only when a third man, an FBI agent in the area, enters the scene does someone tend to Rice. The paramedics show up minutes later.
There’s no accusation of police misconduct, no matter how compelling the evidence, that won’t generate a hot debate on the Internet, but this comment from our Headlines thread is persuasive:
As an ER doc and SWAT medical director who has trained hundreds of both SWAT and patrol officers, this sickens and infuriates me. I’ll readily admit that I’m fairly biased to give LEOs the benefit of the doubt most of the time (for better or worse), but in this instance it appears that if the “extended surveillance video” is correct and they did nothing, then they deserve to be held accountable in every possible way. To address some misconceptions floating around the thread, there absolutely are a number of basic, potentially life-saving interventions that could (and should) have been attempted – our entire understanding of tactical emergency medical care relies upon them. They have stemmed from our recent experiences in military medicine and are well documented, with literally reams of reports, articles, and position papers validating the concept. It is unthinkable that with all of the recent attention generated by active shooter events and mass casualties, that officers in a major metro department haven’t at least heard about these interventions. For that matter, every academy in the country (maybe even the world) includes basic first aid in their curriculum. The skills aren’t rocket science – control external hemorrhage, use manual techniques to maintain an airway, etc. Even for departments and individual officers who refuse to invest in first aid kits with basic devices like dressing and tourniquets can temporize with a gloved hand and direct pressure in most instances. For them to have done nothing shows that they just didn’t care. You can be goddamned sure they would have tried to something, anything, to help each other if they had been injured.
None of this means the child wouldn’t have died anyway, but that isn’t the point – as others have commented, he was a kid and a human being, and you’re obligated to at least try, for God’s sake. Unless either of the officers also carried some sort of professional medical license (which would hold them to higher standard of care), they’re even indemnified under “Good Samaritan” laws to not be held liable for a bad outcome as long as the interventions they tried to provide were done so in good faith. Even the most cynical administrator and risk management bureaucrat recognizes how horrible the optics of this is, and how even “going through the motions” of at least applying a dressing improves the department’s liability posture in an officer involved shooting.
Follow the link for more. One thing that baffles me: With Rice wounded but still alive on the ground and in possession of what the cops thought might well be a real gun, why weren’t they all over him as soon as they were out of the car? They should have wanted to confiscate the gun at least, let alone start immediately with first aid. Mystifying.