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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Relevant Police Witnesses in Tamir Rice Case Declined Interviews Until Late May

Posted By on Sat, Jun 13, 2015 at 7:22 PM

The six-part published investigation into the death of Tamir Rice is being digested by Cleveland this weekend — some six-and-a-half months after the shooting incident and ahead of the imminent Grand Jury hearings. It's a fascinating document, rife with perspectives from many angles of the incident and timestamps that suggest a complicated, fractured investigative process.

To wit, the primary officers involved — Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback — exercised their rights not to speak with investigators from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office. Their union, the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association (CPPA), backed them and numerous other officers in their official silence. The prosecutor's office, in turn, was wary about issuing letters of immunity to officers who were considering interviews.

All of that's fine and apparently above-board, but, at the very least, it made for an unsettlingly drawn out process. 

Here's Detective James Mackey, on Page 1 of Part 6 of the investigation. He's referring to Cleveland police officers who interacted with the crime scene shortly after the shooting incident took place on Nov. 22, 2014:

Note the dates. Recall also that on May 12, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkey told the press that "a few more witnesses need to be interviewed." Lentz, Kitko, Griffin, Roman and Zverina were later confirmed for interviews on June 1. CPPA reps accompanied each officer to each interview.

(Similar obstacles from CPPA leaders arose earlier in the investigation with the dispatchers working for the Division of Police, including Beth Mandl, who took the original 9-1-1 call. They were ultimately offered immunity ["or the like"], which Mackey references in the first paragraph after he lists the officers above. On March 4, for instance, Chief Dispatcher Renee Foley said, "I spoke with my union [the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association] and we have decided to decline on the interview at this time." Separately, the CPPA cites "the current climate" throughout the report as a reason to block an interview with their members.)

In all, and as recognized by investigators, Lentz offered the most constructive information — although all of the interviews fall in line with the CPPA perspective that Tamir appeared to be 20, the gun appeared real, Loehmann appeared injured and upset, Tamir's brother crossed into the crime scene and became angry. Here's Lentz:

Lentz was accompanied by an FBI special agent on Nov. 22 — an unnamed person who administered first aid while Garmback assisted. Here's the special agent's initial observation:

The special agent confirmed that Tamir's injured required immediate surgery — "bright lights and cold surgical steel" — but 14 minutes passed before the boy was taken away on a stretcher, bound for MetroHealth Medical Center.

The special agent — distinctly not a member of the CPPA or any such Cleveland organization — was interviewed on Feb. 27. His interview (pp. 20-22 of Part 3) is one of the more comprehensive views of the aftermath of the shooting.

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