WASHINGTON — An Ohio grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the Cleveland police officers involved in the fatal 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice, an unarmed 12-year-old boy. Tamir joins the list of Americans shot to death by police officers who were never held accountable. This year, that list got much longer.
Police in the United States killed more than 1,100 people in 2015, the vast majority by firearm, according to The Guardian. Most of these cases didn’t achieve notoriety. But in at least 14 fatal shooting incidents that received substantial press attention, prosecutors and grand juries declined to hold the officers responsible. In most of these cases, the victims were unarmed.
The number of cops indicted for murder actually jumped in 2015, with at least 14 officers charged for on-duty killings over a five-month period, The Atlantic reported in August. One of those officers was Michael Slager, a former South Carolina cop who shot and killed Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, as he ran away.
Prosecutors are typically reluctant to bring charges against police officers. But as bystander videos of shooting incidents grow increasingly common — and as many of these videos dramatically contradict police narratives — officials have come under more pressure to hold law enforcement officers accountable. Still, it remains rare for officers to face charges over shooting deaths. Here are 14 notable instances in 2015 when cops walked after killing someone.
Last year, Loehmann, a rookie on the Cleveland police force, shot Tamir, a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun in a park. This week, a grand jury declined to indict Loehmann and Garmback, the other officer who responded to the scene. “It would be irresponsible and unreasonable if law required a police officer to wait and see if the gun was real,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty.
Dallas police shot and killed Harrison, who was schizophrenic, in June 2014,seconds after they told him to drop a screwdriver he was holding. Harrison, 39, was killed in front of his mother, who claimed she had earlier requested help bringing Harrison to a hospital. In April, a Texas grand jury decided not to indict the officers involved in the case.
A university police officer killed Redus, an 23-year-old student at San Antonio’s University of the Incarnate Word, in 2013 after a traffic stop. Redus, who was unarmed, was shot five times. A Bexar County grand jury in March decided not to indict the officer, who had held nine law enforcement jobs in under seven years, according to KENS 5.
Los Angeles police shot and killed Beaird, an unarmed, mentally ill man, after a high-speed car chase in 2013. Beaird was 51. L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey wrote in January that no charges would be brought against the three officers involved, even though L.A. police Chief Charlie Beck had previously said the officers’ use of force was not justified.
An officer in Iowa shot and killed Steele, a 34-year-old woman, in January, while she was fighting with her husband. Authorities said the couple’s dog bit the officer in the leg, and he fired as he fell to the ground, according to KBUR. Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers said in February that charges would not be brought, and that the officer was “faced with the decision to shoot in an instant.”
New Jersey police shot and killed Reid during a traffic stop in 2014, after he got out of the car with his hands up. Officers repeatedly told him not to move, and noted there was a gun in Reid’s car. In a video of the incident, Reid can be heardsaying “I ain’t got no reason to reach for nothing” before he is shot. A New Jersey grand jury decided in August not to indict the officers.
The Denver district attorney said in June he would not bring charges against the officers involved in shooting Hernandez, a 17-year-old girl who was driving a stolen car. There were four other teenagers in the car, and an officer said Hernandez was speeding the car toward him.
A sergeant in Michigan shot and killed Guilford, an unarmed 17-year-old, during a traffic stop in February. Guilford was driving to his girlfriend’s house, and flashed his lights at the officer because his headlights were bright, according to a lawsuit filed by Guilford’s family. The officer first used a stun gun, and then fired seven rounds after an altercation with Guilford, the Lansing State Journal reported. Eaton County prosecutor Doug Lloyd said in June that the officer’s actions were lawful and charges would not be brought.
New Jersey police officers shot Kamal 13 times during an encounter in November 2013. Kamal, 30, was unarmed. Prosecutors said he’d had his hand in his pocket and was threatening to shoot, but he was not carrying a gun. In February, a grand jury chose not to indict three officers involved.
In March, an officer with the Smyrna Police Department in Georgia shot Thomas, a mechanic, in the back. Police said Thomas, 23, was driving quickly around a building, and they feared he put them at risk for “serious bodily injury or death.” A grand jury ruled in July that the shooting was justified.
Alvin Lugod, a police officer in Omaha, Nebraska, shot and killed Elrod, 39, in February after responding to a robbery in which Elrod was allegedly involved. Police say Lugod shot Elrod, who was unarmed, when he turned around and tried to jump a fence. The killing was captured on video by two police cruisers. A grand jury declined to indict Lugod for Elrod’s death, a decision welcomed by the local prosecutor, Don Kleine. Lugod, who was also cleared of wrongdoing for killing a man in the line of duty in 2012, resigned from the Omaha police force in March after an internal affairs investigation.
In February, David Stith, a police officer in Tallahassee, Florida, shot and killed an unarmed Lett, 28, who matched the description of a robbery suspect. A grand jury decided the killing was justified, accepting Stith’s claims that Lett had struggled with him physically and that he had tried unsuccessfully to use a stun gun on Lett. Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs praised the decision.
Two sheriff’s deputies in Bexar County, Texas, shot and killed Flores in August while responding to a call about a domestic dispute. Flores was 41. A grand jurychose not to indict the deputies, believing their claims that they had initially tried to subdue Flores with a stun gun and that he’d brandished a knife. A cell phone video of the incident, however, appears to show Flores raising his arms in the air immediately before police shot him.
Daniel Isaac Covarrubias
Two cops in Lakewood, Washington, shot Covarrubias at a lumberyard in April, after they say he refused to come down from a pile of lumber and pointed his cell phone at them, which they believed was a gun. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist declined to bring charges against the officers in July, stating that their “actions were in response to a perceived deadly threat.” Covarrubias was 37.