Tamir Rice shooting: Officer says threat was 'real and active'

Enhanced video of Tamir Rice shooting released
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Story highlights

  • Tamir Rice's family slams prosecutors for allowing officers to write statements rather than testify
  • Officer Timothy Loehmann provides a signed statement to investigators
  • He says he thought Tamir was over 18 and pulling out a real gun

(CNN)The police officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice is speaking out for the first time, more than a year after the shooting.

In a signed statement given to investigators and released by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office Tuesday, Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann doesn't mention Tamir by name.
He says he saw a suspect "pick up an object and stick it down in his waistband" as he arrived outside a Cleveland recreation center with his partner on November 22, 2014. He says he yelled "show me your hands" as loudly as he could. And he says he thought the suspect "appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds" and was pulling out a real gun.
    "With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out. I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active," Loehmann wrote in the statement, which was dated Monday.
    The officer says he fired two shots toward the gun, based on his training.
    In addition to Loehmann's statement, the office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty released a statement from Loehmann's partner, who also says he believed the gun was real and that the person waving it was an adult.
    The officers' statements were read to a grand jury investigating the case on Monday, their attorney told CNN affiliate WJW.
    The November 2014 shooting sparked controversy given Tamir's age, the amount of time before the officer shot the boy and the fact that Tamir had a gun that fired pellets, not bullets.
    It also came as protests grew over police-involved shootings of unarmed African-American men.
    The boy's family has called for a special prosecutor to take over the case, alleging that the county prosecutor has shown himself to be biased in favor of police.
    Previous documents released by the prosecutor's office have included expert assessments that the officer's decision to shoot the boy was reasonable.
    After the officers' statements were released Tuesday, the Rice family said in a statement released through their attorney that prosecutors gave the officers special treatment by allowing them to submit their statements to the grand jury rather than testifying.
    "For the prosecutor to allow police officers who are supposed to be targets of a criminal investigation to submit unsworn statements in response to grand-jury subpoenas requiring live testimony is yet again a stunning irregularity that further taints these proceedings," the statement said. "No ordinary citizen who is under investigation would be afforded this special treatment."
    A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said he could not discuss the grand jury proceedings. In a statement accompanying the officers' accounts, prosecutors said they were being released "in keeping with our determination to be as transparent as possible in this and other police use of fatal deadly force cases."
    "The investigation is continuing," McGinty said, "and ultimately the grand jury will make its decision based on all the evidence."

    Grand jury hears testimony

    Tamir had been playing near the swings of a recreation center near his home when he was shot on November 22. He died a day later.
    A witness called 911, reporting there was "a guy with a pistol," adding that the weapon was "probably" fake.
    Information that the gun the caller saw was probably not real and that the person holding it appeared to be a juvenile was not conveyed to Loehmann and his partner, according to recordings that law enforcement released.
    An investigative report on the shooting released in June said Loehmann opened fire just seconds after arriving at the scene.
    A grand jury is hearing testimony in the case.
    Samaria Rice, Tamir's mother, testified on Monday, according to a statement released by her attorney.
    "She had the opportunity to ask the grand jury to consider whether it could possibly be 'reasonable' or 'justifiable' for officers to speed across the grass when driveways were nearby, rush up to Tamir, and shoot him immediately," the statement said. "She believes that the answer is plainly no, and hopes and prays that the grand jury agrees that there is probable cause to indict the officers and hold them accountable for her son's death."

    'I had very little time'

    In the statement he provided to investigators this week, Loehmann says the officers responded to the scene after receiving a call of a "male waiving (sic) a gun and pointing at people."
    Time was of the essence, Loehmann says in his written statement.
    "I had very little time as I exited the vehicle," he says. "We are trained to get out of the cruiser because 'the cruiser is a coffin.' "
    Once he got out of the car, Loehmann says he rushed to get behind it.
    "We are taught to shoot and move. You do not want to be a sitting target," he says. "The suspect had a gun, had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our command to show us his hands. He was facing us. This was an active shooter situation."