Community leaders obtain probable cause finding in Tamir Rice case using unique Ohio law

In an unusual legal move, community leaders in Cleveland sought and obtained a finding of probable cause to charge the officers involved in the  2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice using a little-known practice from an Ohio law. The statute allows private citizens to request the arrest of a person by filing affidavits with a judge, instead of going through the police or prosecutor's office.

The shooting, which took place on November 22 last year, came after a 911 call reporting that someone was pointing a gun that was "probably fake" at people in a Cleveland park. The officers involved state that they told Rice to put his hands up three times from inside their patrol car when they arrived. A video shows that Officer Timothy Loehmann then shot Rice "within two seconds" of exiting the car, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The rifle Rice possessed was an Airsoft replica with the orange cap removed, it was later determined.

Judge Ronald B. Adrine of the Cleveland Municipal Court found probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. The order also found probable cause to charge Officer Frank Garmback, the other officer at the scene, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. The Northeast Ohio Media Group has the full text of the court order, here.

The Media Group reports that the case will now go to a grand jury to decide whether to formally charge the officers. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty stated that the case was going to proceed to the grand jury anyway as a matter of policy for cases involving "fatal use of deadly force" by police. The Media Group cites Martin Belsky, a law professor at the University of Akron as saying that these actions put pressure on the prosecutor to act, but ultimately "cannot interfere with [the prosecutor's] full discretion to handle the case."

Several other news outlets have covered the case, including the New York Times, The Guardian and NBC News.