Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice looks on as Benjamin Crump speaks during a news conference in Cleveland
By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Community leaders asked a municipal court on Tuesday to invoke an obscure Ohio law so that a city judge could bring murder charges and issue arrest warrants for two policemen in the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy.
If the judge agrees, it could pile pressure on prosecutors in the 2014 case that raised questions about police use of force in the United States, particularly against minorities.
The two Cleveland officers involved in the shooting are white and the boy, Tamir Rice, was black.
"The police’s use of deadly force was fatal, unconscionable, that we deem criminal in nature," read the 131-page citizen complaint filed in a Cleveland Municipal Court.
The 1960 law has been seldom invoked in Ohio, one of a handful of states that allows "citizens knowledgeable of the facts" of a crime to seek an arrest and criminal charges through the courts, bypassing prosecutors.
Those who presented the citizens' affidavits said they have grown frustrated and distrustful of authorities handling the case. The group includes a university professor and local clergy.
Cleveland's police department agreed last month on a plan to minimize racial bias and the use of excessive force after the U.S. Justice Department found a pattern of abuses against civilians by police.
Rice was shot outside a city recreation center last Nov. 22 while playing with a Airsoft-type replica handgun used in pretend combat.
Rookie police officer Timothy Loehmann fired at Rice twice within two seconds of arriving at the scene with his partner Frank Garmback in response to a 911 emergency call about a man with a gun outside the recreation center, according to authorities. The sixth-grader died the next day.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has said the evidence in the shooting will be presented to a grand jury to decide on bringing charges against Loehmann and Garmback after a county sheriff's department completed its investigation last week.
Rice family lawyer Walter Madison said his clients were worried about the transfer of the case to the prosecutor in light of the acquittal of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo in May in another case.
Brelo, who is white, was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of a black man and a woman.
(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Lambert)