US & Canada

Tamir Rice death: Cleveland policeman defends shooting boy

Ferguson demonstrators rallied to support Rice Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protests after Rice's death spread across the country

The policeman who shot and killed a 12-year-old waving a pellet gun has said he thought the gun was real.

Timothy Loehmann told investigators he and his partner repeatedly shouted "show me your hands" before fatally shooting Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

His statement was released to a grand jury as it decides whether the two officers, both white, will be charged.

The issue of excessive force by police against African Americans has become a source of protests and national debate.

Rice was carrying a non-lethal pellet gun when Cleveland police approached him in November 2014, in response to a 911 call reporting a man waving and pointing a gun at people.

The caller said the gun may not be real and the perpetrator could be a juvenile. This information was not passed onto the officers.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Rice's gun did not have the orange marking to indicate it was a replica

Mr Loehmann said when he saw the weapon he believed it to be real.

"I knew it was a gun and I knew it was coming out," he wrote in his statement.

"I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active."

He said he was concerned that Rice would run into a nearby recreation centre with a loaded weapon.

Rice was shot twice and died a day later due to his injuries.

Campaigners have been particularly critical of the speed at which the officers opened fire after arriving at the scene.

A grand jury will decide whether Mr Loehmann and his field training officer will receive criminal charges.

Three independent reports have said the shooting was justified but two reports commissioned by the Rice family have come to the opposite conclusion.

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