Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized an Ohio grand jury’s decision Monday not to indict two police officers in connection with the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
“I think we need to have a federal investigation to take a hard look at that. But I will also tell you that we need, nationally, to take a hard look at the use of force,” Sanders told MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry Monday.
The grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against a rookie Cleveland police officer, Timothy Loehmann, who shot and killed a 12-year-old Tamir, who was playing with a toy gun, closing a year-long investigation into one of several police shootings that sparked nationwide protests.
In announcing the decision, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said that newly enhanced surveillance video made it ‘undisputably clear’ that the boy, Tamir Rice, was reaching into his waistband for the toy — which was ‘indistinguishable’ from a real gun — just before Loehmann opened fire.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, said in a statement: “Tamir Rice’s death was a heartbreaking tragedy and I understand how this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served. We all lose, however, if we give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us.”
Sander, a Vermont Senator said that while he feels police have an impossible job, “as a nation, we have got to recognize that lethal force should be the last response, not the first response — and we’re seeing too much, I think, [shootings] in this country.”
Rice was shot in November 2014 by Officer Timothy Loehmann, who has said he believed the child was a threat due to his size and because the toy gun Rice was carrying looked real. After the shooting, Loehmann and fellow officer Frank Garmback realized the gun was a toy.
Sanders, has spoken out about police shootings before and has made criminal justice reform an important aspect of his platform. Earlier this month, he called for an investigation into the Chicago Police Department after a video of police officers shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released in November. The Vermont senator also called on Chicago officials to resign if they were involved in suppressing the video, and questions continue to arise about how long Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel knew the details of the video.