The latest twist on the Tamir Rice shooting underscores the value of police video, and the critical need to make it available to the public.
Video footage already released shows officers almost immediately pulling up and shooting the 12-year-old, who was holding a pellet gun, in a Cleveland, Ohio, park.
But as freshly released extended video of the incident reveals, it gets even worse.
The video shows the two officers standing by without offering any aid to the wounded youth. And when Rice’s 14-year-old sister tried to run to her fallen brother’s side, the officers tackled her and handcuffed her.
Tamir died nine hours later in a hospital.
People are also reading…
“It’s a serious development in an ongoing story,” writes Anna Clark for the Columbia Journalism Review, “and it confirms the version of events described by Rice’s mother at a Dec. 8 press conference. It’s also an unfortunate addendum to the U.S. Justice Department’s two-year investigation into the Cleveland Police Department, which faulted city cops for reckless behavior that escalated the danger of potentially nonviolent encounters.”
It’s important to note as well that media in Cleveland had to fight for access to the footage.
It involved a public records request by the Plain Dealer for the full footage, which had been taken by a park surveillance camera.
The city said no, contending, as the city of Greensboro has in recent cases, that the video was exempt from open-records laws because it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
The Plain Dealer would not take no for an answer and hired an attorney, who successfully argued that, because the camera was city-owned, placed in a public park, and “wasn’t filming selectively as part of a police investigation that cops would reasonably not want to be made public,” Anna Clark writes. “It is pure happenstance that it recorded the crime.”
The city eventually complied.
As for the officers’ behavior itself, it was cold-hearted, inept and indefensible.
The first individual to administer aid to Tamir Rice, four minutes after the shooting, was an FBI agent who happened to be near the scene , The New York Times reports. Paramedics arrived eight minutes after Tamir was shot.
Imagine the enormous blind spot the lack of the video release would have left.
As for the officer who fired the fatal shot, he was a rookie who had been dismissed from a previous job on a suburban police force “after his supervisors determined two years ago that he had had a ‘dangerous loss of composure’ during firearms training and was emotionally unprepared to cope with stresses of the job.”