WASHINGTON — In the wake of the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota last year, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) on Friday led 41 of his colleagues on a letter to President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, urging the Department of Justice to reopen its civil rights investigation into the death of Tamir Rice.
Tamir Rice, a Black 12-year-old boy, was shot and killed by police in November 2014 while playing with a toy air pellet gun near a playground in Cleveland. Video showed that Rice was shot within two seconds of officers arriving at the site. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department opened a federal investigation after Officer Timothy Loehmann was not charged with any crime under state law. The case remained open into the Trump administration, when the investigation was intentionally neglected by political appointees despite two attempts from career civil rights division prosecutors to convene a grand jury.
In December 2020, Trump’s Department of Justice announced that it had closed its investigation of Rice’s death and would not bring federal criminal charges against any of the offices involved, citing insufficient evidence to show that Rice's constitutional rights were violated or that the officers obstructed justice.
“The senseless, chronic killing of Black people at the hands of law enforcement must end; that can only happen with true accountability and a ravenous pursuit for justice from all levels of government,” the members wrote in the letter. “George Floyd should still be alive. Tamir Rice should still be alive. We cannot bring them back, or any of the many other Black lives taken after an interaction with law enforcement, but we must, at minimum, work to ensure that the pursuit of justice is not in name only. Between 2013 and 2019, 7,666 people were killed by police, and 98.7% of those deaths resulted in no charges whatsoever. This is an untenable failing.”
Last week, Rice’s family called on Attorney General Garland to reopen the investigation and convene a grand jury to consider charges against the officers who killed him.
“We are enheartened by the real opportunity to be stewards of our community in partnership with you. We fully support carrying out Samaria Rice’s appeal to DOJ immediately, and we further urge that the results of the investigation be made public immediately upon completion,” the members wrote.
The letter from the members comes at a time when the Rice family does not have active representation in Congress, as they live in Ohio’s 11th district, which is vacant following Secretary Marcia Fudge’s confirmation to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Joining Rep. Bowman on the letter are Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Cori Bush (D-MO), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL), Al Green (D-TX), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D-MN), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Stacey E. Plaskett (D-V.I.), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Nikema Williams (D-GA), and Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL),
Click here to read the full text of the letter.