A judge in Ohio has announced that he has found probable cause to charge a police officer with murder for the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Cleveland municipal court Judge Ronald Adrine said there was cause to bring charges of of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against officer Timothy Loehmann, according to the Plain-Dealer newspaper.
The judge said Mr Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback, should face lesser charges of negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
His decision followed a probe by police into the killing last year, which sparked outcry. Video footage recorded at the scene showed the youngster, playing with a pellet gun, being shot moments after officers arrived.
The judge gave his ruling in response to a legal action taken earlier this week when local groups called on officials to arrest the two officers on charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and other charges.
That step was taken in an effort to bypass Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who is preparing evidence to present to a grand jury.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department last week handed over the case to Mr McGinty's office, after completing its own six-month investigation.
The prosecution will review the case and conduct its own investigation, if deemed necessary, before turning over the evidence to a grand jury. That process could take months.
It was not immediately clear how or whether the judge's statement will affect the prosecutor. Reuters said Mr Adrine's opinion does not compel charges or require the officers' arrest.
"This court is mindful that despite any conclusions it draws from the evidence...its role here is advisory in nature," he wrote.
Indeed, in a statement regarding Mr Adrine's opinion, Mr McGinty said on Thursday evening the case will go to a grand jury, as is the policy for all police lethal force incidents.
"Ultimately, the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged," he said.
In a statement, Tamir's family said: "We are grateful that the wheels of justice are starting to turn."
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