Tamir would be alive if he had been white

The New York Times goes there … lays in out in, yes, black and white and in plain sight.

Tamir Rice of Cleveland would be alive today had he been a white 12-year-old playing with a toy gun in just about any middle-class neighborhood in the country on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2014.


Mr. McGinty described the events leading up to Tamir’s death as tragic series of errors and “miscommunications” that began when a 911 caller said a male who was “probably a juvenile” was waving a “probably fake” gun at people in a park.  The fact that those caveats never reached Officer Loehmann — who shot the child within seconds of arriving on the scene — was more than just an administrative misstep. It reflects an utter disregard for the lives of the city’s black residents. That disregard pervades every aspect of this case and begins with the fact that the department failed to even review Officer Loehmann’s work history before giving him the power of life and death over the citizens of Cleveland.

Probably the most important part to me, though, is:

In addition to portraying the killing as a result of a tragic misunderstanding, prosecutors have also suggested the officer’s decision to kill Tamir was shaped by the fact that the surrounding neighborhood had a history of violence and that the boy appeared to be older than 12 because he was big for his age.

I cannot get past the fact that the officers inexplicably pulled up within feet of Tamir although they supposedly thought he was a danger to them and the neighborhood.  How does this make sense to anyone?  I watched the video and, while I’m certainly no expert, I was shocked at how close they were … and by how quickly Loehmann opened fire.  Of course, now we know Loehmann should never have been on the police force in the first place; he was on his way to being fired from the Independence Police Department for mental instability issues.  It has been widely reported CPD never even bothered to get his service record as part of a background check.  The last link also reports the dispatcher had been fired from a previous dispatcher job.  If the I’m sure there will be some pablum fed to us that steps will be made to improve police procedure in this types of cases … blah, blah, blah … but they should have known already that this was an incredibly reckless thing to do.

I have seen it suggested that this likely means the officers had their response planned in advance; we’ll likely never know but I think it speaks more to the militarization of our police forces than to some nefarious plan to kill a 12-year-old.  We have turned cops into Rambos or Dirty Harrys who can blast away the bad guys, even when they aren’t bad guys, and that makes them cool or heros.  Tamir was doing nothing illegal.  Ohio is an open carry state so even if the gun had been real he was doing nothing wrong.  The 911 caller apparently stated Tamir was aiming the gun at people.  Okay so let’s accept for the moment that that is true.  The woman in the Home Depot store who actually fired her weapon wasn’t shot and killed.  Oh wait!  She was white.  But we’re not supposed to believe race is involved.

I’ve buried buried in work and school, and took some time away from Twitter and the news sites but managed to pop up the day it was announced the grand jury would not indict the Cleveland officers.  I really want to sink back down into the rabbit hole; there is just this almost overwhelming sense of frustration and futility.  Just when you think we have to seen the last murder another one happens because we choose not to learn any lessons.  The officer in the Laquan McDonald murder, Jason Van Dyke, pleaded not guilty Tuesday and why wouldn’t he?  Changes are he’ll walk just as so many others have before him.  It just takes one gun-happy, cops-can-do-no-wrong juror.

I picked the wrong life to quit drinking.



  1. Yikes, Happy, I hear you when you say you picked the wrong life to quit drinking. I too feel helpless with rage at the injustice meted out to Tamir, Laquan, Eric Garner, and too many others. I simply don’t know what to do about it.

    Perhaps the ONLY thing we can do to is keep reminding people of the injustice, no matter how little they want to hear about it; to keep marching with Black Lives Matter posters even if the march has been inspired by a different issue; to argue with the stupid mainstream media TV anchors when they parrot right-wing talking points about “victimization”; to keep at it relentlessly, like the widow visiting the judge in the Bible, until something is done.

    Thank you for this post.

  2. You are right.

    Countless others who have “pulled guns” or ” brandished guns” or “carried guns” are still alive only because of the color of their skin. Police are shooting and killing black males out of fear or anger or because they simply don’t believe that blacks deserve the benefit of doubt that a white person is entitled to as their birthright.

    And until someone can fix the laws that give cops the right to invoke the “I was scared for my life” defense, there will never be justice done. It is, quite literally, a get out of jail free card that our society hands to cops along with their badges and guns. If we are going to give them that card, we have every right to demand that they pass psychological screening and go through rigorous training in de-escalating tense situations and substituting non-lethal means for controlling suspects.

    • Some small step:

      Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante are expected to announce a five-step “de-escalation” approach to handling potential conflicts and standoffs, including making sure every “operational” on-duty officer is equipped with a Taser.

      By June 1, 2016, every on-duty officer responding to service calls will be equipped with a Taser and trained in using it, according to an emailed statement from Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

      We’ll see how this works but I’m not overly optimistic. Of course, I read a few comments on the CNN post and one just swears officers will be dying left and right now.

      • Of course, because they can’t do their job if they have to subdue instead of kill people who are causing trouble. Sigh.

  3. Cleveland Police say they have not yet determined if Tamir’s killers will be disciplined:

    Cleveland police will review from start-to-finish the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice to determine if the two officers involved or others should face disciplinary action in the November 2014 incident, officials said on Tuesday. […]

    The shooting of Rice was one of several incidents nationwide that have fueled scrutiny of the use of excessive force by police, particularly against minorities. The officers in the Cleveland case are white and Rice was black.

    The Cleveland committee will review grand jury proceedings and all reports in Rice’s shooting, officials said.

    Officer Timothy Loehmann shot Rice within seconds of reaching the park in response to reports of a person with a gun. Loehmann was in a patrol car driven by his partner Frank Garmback. Both have been on restricted duty since the shooting.

    Reaching for a big bucket of whitewash. Or maybe they will be given medals!!!

    I hope the Justice Department also investigates.

    • Officer Timothy Loehmann shot Rice within seconds of reaching the park

      How does anyone get past this part and think it was legitimate? Coupled with their report that they ordered Tamir to comply with orders. When were those orders given exactly?

  4. Sigh – I’m actually glad I quit drinking – it has stopped my dangerous anger responses.

    Kids with toy guns being shot by cops seems to never be white – kids like Andy Lopez. Of course the cop who shot him got off too.

    • Balloon Juice has a cartoon riffing off of The Christmas Story. So sad and so true. I simply cannot imagine the fear that parents of children of color must have.

      • When you know that if you have a boy – his chances of winding up in the State Pen rather than at Penn State are really high, if he lives to be old enough to go to college…you pray to be one of the exceptions.

        I’ve had both in my family – felons and current college faculty members – have lost family to gun violence too. You just keep trying to get through it and to change it – if you can.

  5. When I get seriously depressed over things like this – which I am right now – I think “maybe extinction due to global warming is the only answer”. I can think of massive overhauls that might do some good. I cannot think of anything minor – the one “good cop” who stands up against this kind of thing would only get harassed and maybe murdered by his “brothers in blue”. But our choices are only to accept or reject – and if we reject, then as Denise said we have to keep trying to change it. Somehow.

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