A group of Cleveland residents are looking to bypass their local prosecutor by using an obscure law to call for the arrest of two police officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
If you remember, the boy was playing with an airsoft-style pellet gun at a public park. Police responded to a call and within seconds one officer had drawn his gun and shot the boy dead.
The shooting happened in November, but it was only recently that Cleveland police finished their investigation and handed it over the prosecuting attorney, who will bring the case before a grand jury.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a law passed in 1960 "allows any person with knowledge of the facts of a case to file sworn affidavits asking a judge to find probable cause to sign off an arrest warrant."
Today, the group, which includes pastors, social justice activists and a criminal justice consultant, filed those affidavits with the court. They argue that after watching surveillance video of the incident, it is clear that police use-of-force in this case was "fatal" and "unconscionable" and "criminal in nature."
"We the undersigned accuse Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback of crimes against the people of Ohio," the group concludes. "So says the people, for the people and by the people."
The Plain Dealer reports that even if the group is successful, the case will end up before a grand jury, which will ultimately make a decision on whether to bring charges against the officers.
The newspaper reports:
"County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty used the grand jury process in connection with the November 2012 high-speed police chase that ended with 13 officers firing 137 shots at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were unarmed.
"Russell and Williams were killed, and police officer Michael Brelo was indicted on two counts of voluntary manslaughter. Judge John O'Donnell found Brelo not guilty May 23, touching off a day of tense demonstrations that ended with 71 protesters arrested.
"Late Monday, McGinty's office issued a statement in response to a New York Times report about the group's plans. 'Once the investigation is complete — and in the death of Tamir Rice, it is not at this time — all evidence and expert analysis will be presented to the Grand Jury,' McGinty's spokesman, Joe Frolik, said. 'The Grand Jury in Cuyahoga County, by the policy of the County Prosecutor's Office, ultimately makes the charging decision in all fatal use of deadly force cases that involve law enforcement officers.' "
CNN reports that Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis called the new effort "mob rule."
"It is very sad how miserable the lives of these self-appointed 'activists, civil right leaders and clergy' must be," Loomis said, according to CNN. "I can't imagine being so very consumed with anger and hatred."
He continued: "Civilized society cannot permit the rule of law to be subverted by mob rule. Trying to coerce public officials into filing a criminal charge under direct/indirect threat of mob rule is a very dangerous game."