Tamir Rice and the Holy Innocents

Awake! Why are you asleep, O Lord?
Arise! Cast us not off forever!
Why do you hide your face,
forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust,
our bodies are pressed to the earth.
Psalm 44:24-26

How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul,
grief in my heart day after day?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalm 13:2-3

A friend queried on social media why people are failing to connect the killing of Tamir Rice–and the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot him–to the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children of Bethlehem killed by Herod in an attempt to kill the Christ child. It’s an apt comparison in many ways.

As a twelve year old Tamir wasn’t innocent in the same way that a babe in arms is, but a twelve year old is still a child–one in need of protection. Over the distance of a year and a thorough investigation it seems he was wrongly killed, but  in legally justifiable circumstances.

The officer who shot him was not indicted by the grand jury, and will not face a criminal trial. A civil lawsuit is ongoing, which may provide some small consolation for his family.

Because the story has been getting a lot of attention on my social media feeds I decided to spend this morning (I’m on vacation) reading the Prosecutor’s Report [available here].

It’s painful to read, especially for a father. 

It shows how profoundly broken our world is. It’s broken in a way that is deeper than can be accounted for by our judicial system (which only ever issues proximate justice), by critical race theory (which does a lot to explain reality, but little to remedy it), or by anything other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If there’s ever a time in which the cry Kyrie eleison is demanded, it is this.

Every factor in the case that is tragic. Every factor.

These include (with quotations from the report below):

  • The police car stopped within six feet of Tamir–unintentionally, according to the officers. They were right in front of Tamir and so placed themselves in a position where they were more likely to need to shoot because they were bigger targets. 

Officer Garmback, who was driving, then approached the gazebo. Since it had recently snowed, the ground was wet and covered with wet leaves and snow. Due to the conditions, the police car slid about 40 feet and stopped right in front of the gazebo. Simultaneously with the car sliding, Tamir took a couple of steps northwest toward the open field, and then approached the sliding police car.

  • That the police officer discharged his firearm within two seconds of encountering Tamir and did so from a distance of 5-6 feet, close to point blank range. Two second. This relates, I imagine, to his proximity to Tamir. But two second–that’s not enough time to shout “freeze” or “hands where I can see them.” The officers claimed they instructed him to show his hands, but it seems (also corroborated by a witness) that they ordered and then fired in very close proximity indeed. What if they had approached in a different manner from a different direction?

As the car came to a sliding stop, Officer Loehmann immediately exited the patrol car from the passenger door, and as he did, Tamir reached into his right side waist band. At that moment, Officer Loehmann discharged his firearm within two seconds of exiting the car. Officer Loehmann fired two shots, one of which hit Tamir in the abdomen and caused him to fall in the area between the patrol car and the gazebo.

Prosecutor’s Report at 4

  • Tamir was offered first aid within three minutes of being shot, but that none of the cruisers had first aid equipment on board. 

The Special Agent was also a national registered paramedic trained to treat gunshot wounds and had served as a combat medic with the Marine Corps. The Special Agent immediately began to treat Tamir and immediately realized that Tamir’s bullet wound was very severe and required surgery. The Special Agent had Officer Garmback assist in him in providing first‐aid to Tamir until the Fire Department arrived approximately eight minutes later. An ambulance arrived shortly after the Fire Department, which then immediately rushed Tamir to MetroHealth Hospital.

Prosecutor’s Report at 4

  • The call-taker [who vets the 911 call and passes on pertinent info to the dispatcher] did not pass on to the patrol officers that the 911 caller referred to Tamir as “probably a juvenile” and that the gun he was carrying was “probably fake.” This seems criminal to me–it changed the nature of the encounter altogether! Why?? 

Ms. Hollinger did remember this particular call, but on the advice of union attorneys, did not tell Sheriff’s investigators why the information of the gun being “probably fake” and Tamir being “probably a juvenile” was not sent to the dispatcher.

Prosecutor’s Report at 14

  • That Tamir was tragically shot in a location that made it almost impossible for him to survive. 

Dr. Thomas P. Gilson, Chief Pathologist (Coroner), did the autopsy of Tamir Rice on November 24, 2014. Dr. Gilson found the cause of death to be a single gunshot wound that tore the inferior vena cava which is a primary vein that controls 2/3 of body blood flow to the lower part of a person’s body. He also found that the direction of the bullet traveled front to back, left to right, and downward. The bullet lodged in the pelvis approximately 26 inches below the top of the head and one inch right of the midline.

Prosecutor’s Report at 30

 The single most chilling element of this tragedy is that the officers would have encountered Tamir differently–in all likelihood–had they received the information that he was a juvenile and playing with a toy gun. The record shows that Tamir did some things that contributed to the situation, but it is alarming how regular these types of events (police killings, that is) are.

Yes, the officers had a split second in which to make a difficult decision. That’s one reason I choose not to own a gun. I don’t want to have another’s life hang in the balance of my ability to choose whether or not to pull the trigger.



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