The two Cleveland police officers involved in the November 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice had told investigators they believed he was a grown man with a gun, when in fact he was an adolescent with a replica gun.
Summaries of what officers Timothy Loehman and Frank Garmback said happened in the moments before Loehman fired two shots that killed Tamir at a playground have been heard before, but this is the first time the public has seen their complete statements to the Cuyahoga County sheriff's office. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office shared the brief statements on Tuesday as part of an ongoing release of files from the controversial shooting.
Each statement is a little more than a page long. In numerous points, Loehman, a rookie officer on probation, connects his actions with the training he'd received.
"The suspect had a gun, had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our commands to show us his hands," Loehman wrote. "This was an active shooter situation."
Many critics previously dismissed the officers' accounts and concluded that Tamir didn't appear threatening in a widely seen video of the shooting.
Loehman claimed in his statement that he and Garmback repeatedly yelled at Tamir to "show me your hands." But the video showed the officer open fire within two seconds of emerging from the police cruiser driven by Garmback.
Neither officer mentioned discovering that what appeared to them like a true firearm was an airsoft-type gun. Normally, pellet guns like this have brightly colored tips to distinguish them from real weapons, but Tamir's lacked the marking.
Garmback, meanwhile, provided a terse recollection that didn't explicitly say that his partner shot Tamir.
"I saw the gun loose on the ground, a few feet from the male after he was shot. I moved it further away from him," he wrote.
The two cops had rushed to Cudell Recreation Center after they heard on a broadcast that there was a black male there waving and pointing a gun at people.
Both officers said they believed that the 12-year-old was at least 18.
Loehman said he saw Tamir pick up an object and stuff it into his waistband. Both officers said they feared Tamir would run into a building after seeing their car. But instead, Tamir started walking toward them.
Garmback stepped on the brakes, but the car slid on the wet ground, at which point Loehman hopped out.
"We are trained to get out of the cruiser because 'the cruiser is a coffin.' I observed the suspect pulling the gun out of his waistband with his elbow coming up," Loehman wrote. "I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active."
A grand jury is reviewing the case and will decide whether to indict the officers for any potential wrongdoing.
The officers' accounts "are being released in keeping with our determination to be as transparent as possible in this and other police use of fatal deadly force cases," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty's office said in its statement.
McGinty previously released reports from outside experts that concluded the shooting was "reasonable."
An attorney for Tamir's family has said McGinty should recuse himself and let a special prosecutor handle the case. Lawyer Subodh Chandra said that the reports came from experts biased in favor of law enforcement.