CLEVELAND -- A YouTube video of a prosecution expert who has sided with Cleveland police in the shooting death of Tamir Rice has emerged. The video shows him making pro-police comments about the case months ago.
Further, a second expert hired by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty to review the Rice shooting was once admonished by the U.S. Department of Justice for being "unfaithful" to the law in an effort to exonerate police in their use of deadly force.
The videotaped comments by S. Lamar Sims, a senior chief deputy district attorney in Denver, and the pro-police stance by expert Kimberly Crawford are raising questions of McGinty's motive in retaining their reports of the 12-year-old boy's shooting death last year.
McGinty released their respective reports late Saturday. Both experts hired by McGinty found the officer's shooting of Tamir, who was armed only with a pellet gun, to be justified.
Those opinions are expected to be presented to a grand jury at a later date. Rice's family has urged prosecutors to charge Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garbeck for the shooting, saying their actions were unreasonable.
In the YouTube video posted on May 8, Sims does not mention Tamir Rice by name. However, it is clear that he is speaking about the boy's shooting last year outside of the Cudell Recreation Center on Cleveland's west side.
In the video, Sims was questioned by an interviewer about cases of officers using deadly force.
Sims said the courts use "reasonable" standards when determining whether an officer is justified in using deadly force. He said courts do not consider an officer's motive or bias, but rather whether the officer's actions are "reasonable" based on the circumstances and what the officer knows at the time of the event.
Sims said the community often reacts to facts learned after the use of deadly force.
"The community may react to facts learned later," said Sims in the video. "For example, look around the nation. Say you have a 12- or 13-year-old boy with a toy gun. We learned that later. The question is, what did the officer know at the time? What should a reasonable officer have known at the time when he or she took the steps that led to the use of physical force of deadly force?"
Subodh Chandra, the Cleveland attorney representing the Rice family, said Sims' comments appear to favor police. Chandra said the comments make it appear that Sims was selected by McGinty for his pro-police stance.
"It's clear from the video that this so-called expert engaged by the prosecutor's office had already prejudged this matter long before he was engaged by the prosecutor," said Chandra. "It also raises questions in the Rice family's minds about whether that was precisely why that so-called expert was engaged."
Chandra said Crawford's past support of police also raises questions about her biases and whether those past opinions are the reason McGinty asked that she review the evidence connected to Tamir's shooting death.
In a past case of police use of deadly force, Crawford's opinion was rejected by the Department of Justice for being outside the law, "overly protective of law enforcement" and going "too far to exonerate the use of force."
"That certainly raises doubt in the Rice family's mind again as to why this expert, this supposed expert, was engaged and what the agenda is here," said Chandra.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty released a statement Monday:
My staff was instructed to find and ask the nation's finest teachers and experienced professionals in the field of the use of deadly force by police to study the facts and render their opinion in light of the Supreme Court's instructions. Neither expert was financially motivated and to my knowledge do not testify as part of their source of income. One has taught the subject to the most professional law enforcement agency in our nation and perhaps the world; the FBI.
The other lawyer is also highly respected and a experienced lead prosecutor in Colorado, has taught the subject, and is an author of the Denver DA Protocol on use of force which also promotes a high level of transparency.
This Prosecutor's Office's policy-- requiring a high level of transparency in the investigations of deadly of force cases by police and giving the ultimate decision to the Grand Jury -- will make police across the county more accountable, reduce the number of unnecessary deaths of both civilians and police while increasing the public confidence in its system of justice.
It has already produced significant policy reforms post-Brelo including a dramatic reduction in the number and length of high speed chases that endanger the public. The oversight of the Department of Justice with its specific goals will only underscore Cleveland's determination to improve its performance.