Newly released footage of interviews with the police officers who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, reveal a shifting story from one officer, as well as a deeply emotional response by another who said he didn’t know Rice “was a kid.”
Two videos, released by the lawyer representing the Rice family, show police interviews with Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the officers who shot the boy seconds after spotting him with a pellet gun in a Cleveland park in November 2014.
The officers were responding to a 911 call that a man was wielding a gun and pointing at people at a nearby park. However, the emergency dispatcher failed to relay to the officers that the caller added that the individual could be a juvenile and the gun might be a “fake.”
The dispatcher was suspended for eight days for the omission.
In the video provided to NBC News by the Rice family’s lawyer, Loehmann, an officer in training who fired the fatal shot, told investigators that he opened the car door and told Rice repeatedly, “Put your hands in the air! Let me see your hands! Freeze!” while the car was “about 30 yards” from the boy.
The verbal statement came at odds with a written statement Loehmann gave the grand jury where he said he didn’t open the door and start yelling until the car rolled to a stop closer to Rice, Rice family attorney Subodh Chandra said in a statement to NBC News.
“Officer Loehmann claims in the video that he was hanging out of his door shouting commands, with the gun out as the car approached Tamir, whereas he told the grand jury in a prewritten statement he read that he opened the door at the end,” he said.
Loehmann also said he “presented” his gun and gave commands through a “closed” car window to the boy during the interview.
However, surveillance video shows Loehmann shooting the boy mere seconds after the officers’ arrival, Chandra told NBC News.
Loheman told investigators he thought the gun Rice was holding was real and that the “threat just became incredible,” in the video.
“I had to make the decision fast because Frank and I were in immediate danger,” he said. “We were easy targets,” he said. “Plus, I was stuck in the doorway, and my partner was still seated in the driver’s seat, so we were basically sitting ducks.”
Loehmann’s partner, Garmback broke down and wept at several points during his interview, which was taken days after the shooting.
“‘I didn’t know it was a kid,” he said, while describing the boy’s final moments.
“I could see his eyes rolling to the back of his head,” he said emotionally. “He’s barely breathing, and there’s no rescue squad,” he added. “I didn’t know what else to do, there’s nothing else I could have done.”
Upon approaching Rice, both officers said they believed the boy would run and conferred on how to handle the situation in the event he did.
A grand jury declined to indict the officers and neither was found criminally liable.
Loehmann is facing administrative charges for providing false information on his job application to the Cleveland Police Department and for omitting information about an “emotional breakdown” during a state qualification course.
Garmback is facing administrative charges for improper tactics during the confrontation with Rice and failing to report his arrival time to a dispatcher.
If found guilty of the administrative charges, they could face penalties ranging from 30 days’ suspension to termination.
“The inconsistencies among the officers’ video-recorded statements, their prewritten and un-cross-examined supposed ‘testimony’ to the grand jury, and the video of the shooting underscore how important it is for the safety director, police chief, and mayor at long last to finally hold these officers accountable,” Chandra said in a statement to NBC News.
“On behalf of Officer Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann, we find the timing of their Garrity interviews being released to be suspect. These officers are in the process of having their administrative hearings before the Safety Director. This release is intended to undermine their right to a fair and impartial hearing,” said Henry Hillow, an attorney representing Garmback and Loehmann in a statement to NBC News.
Rice’s family recently settled a civil rights lawsuit with the city of Cleveland filed for $6 million.
Rice’s death sparked outrage and mass protests against police misconduct in Cleveland and became one of the leading catalysts in the Black Lives Matter movement.