CHICAGO - Two US police officers involved in the shooting death of a 12-year-old black boy who was holding a toy gun should face criminal charges, a judge ruled Thursday.
The Cleveland Municipal Court judge cautioned, however, that his opinion is "advisory in nature" and it is ultimately up to the "discretion of the city's prosecuting authority" to file charges, the local ABC News station reported.
The ruling comes after community leaders took advantage of an unusual law which allows residents to bypass prosecutors and ask judges to issue arrest warrants.
Tamir Rice was shot dead seconds after the two police officers arrived at a recreation centre following a call that "a guy with a pistol" was pointing it at people.
While the caller told the dispatcher that the gun was "probably fake," police said this was not passed along to the responding officers.
The November shooting came at a time of heightened racial tensions following a series of incidents involving questionable use of lethal police force in black communities across the United States.
Judge Ronald Adrine ruled there was probably cause to bring charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against Timothy Loehmann, who shot dead the boy.
Adrine found there was probable cause to bring charges of negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against Frank Garmback, who was driving the patrol car, ABC News reported.
AFP was not immediately able to obtain a copy of the ruling.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department took charge of the investigation and turned its conclusions over to prosecutors last week.
It could take weeks or months for the prosecutor's office to conduct its own review and decide whether to press charges.
Activist Rachelle Smith, a member of the group that filed the affidavits, welcomed the judge's recommendation.
"This isn't the end of the road, but it's a step and it's encouraging," she told Cleveland.com.