By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A Cleveland judge on Thursday found probable cause that a police officer who shot to death a 12-year-old boy last year should face a murder charge in an opinion that puts pressure on prosecutors.
Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine said Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, whose shooting of Tamir Rice was captured on video, should face charges including murder, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback, should face negligent homicide and dereliction of duty charges, he found.
Adrine’s opinion does not compel charges or require the officers' arrest. "This court is mindful that despite any conclusions it draws ... its role here is advisory in nature," he wrote.
Rice's death is one of several recent cases 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 Rice was black.
The ruling came days after eight community leaders filed affidavits requesting action from the court in the death of Rice, who was holding a replica gun when he was shot.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement on Thursday that the case will go to a grand jury, as is the policy for all police lethal force incidents.
In a statement regarding Adrine's opinion, Rice's family said: "We are grateful that the wheels of justice are starting to turn."
Adrine was responding to a complaint filed under a little-used 1960 law that allows citizens to seek an arrest and criminal charges directly through the courts. But the judge said he could not file charges or issue an arrest warrant in this case.
Rice was shot outside a recreation center last November while playing with a airsoft-type replica handgun.
Loehmann fired at Rice twice within two seconds of arriving at the scene with Garmback in response to a 911 emergency call about a man with a gun outside the recreation center, authorities said. The sixth-grader died the next day.
Adrine said that after viewing video of the incident several times, "this court is still thunderstruck at how quickly this event turned deadly."
The county sheriff's department completed its investigation of the shooting last week, without revealing any conclusions.
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.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Writing by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Beech)