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Rice Supporters Try Obscure Legal Maneuver To Charge Cleveland Officers

Brian Bull

Attorneys, clergy, and community activists gathered outside the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland Tuesday to announce they've filed affidavits against the two police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last fall.

The maneuver is based on a rarely-used Ohio law from 1960 that lets private citizens with knowledge of a case go directly to a judge and ask for an arrest warrant. In this case, the community group says a video of the shooting provides probable cause to arrest officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. The 131 pages of documents outline arguments for charges that include aggravated murder, reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter, and dereliction of duty. 

Speaking to reporters, Rice family Attorney Walter Madison said it was time for action. 

“What you see here today is one of the most American things I’ve seen in my life," Madison said. "The people have decided to take the opportunity to make the government work for them.” 

Lewis Katz, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, says the action seems born from frustration and despair. 

“Even if the judge issues the arrest warrant in this case, a defendant in Ohio has the right to a grand jury indictment on every felony case,” Katz said.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association blasted the affidavits as “mob rule” and says both officers involved in Rice’s shooting were acting on the information they had available at the time…that a person had been seen pointing a gun at people outside the Cudell Rec Center. Rice was carrying an air-soft-style pellet gun.

There’s no timeline for the municipal judge to act on the affidavits. 

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