- Associated Press - Friday, June 12, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) - A Cleveland Municipal Court judge on Thursday says there’s probable cause to arrest two Cleveland police officers for the fatal shooting of a boy holding a pellet gun last November, but the ruling doesn’t compel prosecutors to do anything and arrests are unlikely at this point.

The following is a look at the ruling and what lies ahead in the legal process surrounding the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy in Cleveland last year.

OBSCURE LAW

A group of eight activists, frustrated with the pace of the investigation into the shooting of Tamir, used an obscure Ohio statute that allows private citizens to submit affidavits to a court asking a judge to determine if there’s enough evidence - probable cause - to arrest or charge someone with a crime. The activists won on that front. Cleveland Municipal Judge Ronald Adrine ruled Thursday that the activists’ affidavits and a video of the shooting provide enough probable cause to charge rookie officer Timothy Loehmann with the first-degree felonies of murder and involuntary manslaughter, and also reckless homicide and dereliction of duty, which are misdemeanor charges. There’s also enough probable cause to charge Loehmann’s partner Timothy Garmback with reckless homicide and dereliction of duty.

LAW SCHOOL ANALYSIS

Three Cleveland law professors say law enforcement officers frequently submit affidavits - and nothing else - to judges to obtain search warrants or arrest warrants. All the affidavits have to show is that there’s probable cause that a crime has been committed. The professors said probable cause is a low bar to get over and that it falls far short of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard needed to find someone guilty of a crime.

WHAT THE JUDGE SAID

Judge Adrine’s ruling said that while there’s enough evidence to file criminal complaints against Loehmann and Garmback, the decision is ultimately at the discretion of prosecutors. Adrine said the video showing Loehmann shooting Tamir within two seconds of a cruiser driven by Garmback skidding to a stop near the boy was “hard to watch.” He added that he was “thunderstruck” by how quickly Loehmann shot Tamir.

NO ARRESTS OR CHARGES

It doesn’t appear that Adrine’s ruling will lead to any arrests or charges. The city of Cleveland issued a statement Thursday that said its prosecutor would defer to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who issued his own statement making it clear that the case would be presented to a grand jury, which is his office’s policy for all police-involved shooting cases.

WHAT’S NEXT

McGinty’s office has only had the investigation by the county sheriff’s department since June 3. A spokesman for McGinty has said the investigation will be reviewed and analyzed and that it’s possible that the sheriff’s department will be asked to do more work before the case is presented to a grand jury. When that presentation will be made is unclear.


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