The Wrong (aka Black) Body: Cleveland Says 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Guilty In His Own Death

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A warning, in the improbable case you didn't know it: U.S. police are still out of control. The latest egregious proof is not just yesterday's daylight shooting by LAPD officers of a likely mentally ill homeless man - comes in the wake of the official Cleveland response to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old kid shot dead in a city park for playing with a toy gun. In court documents, city officials claim that Tamir and his grieving family, and their “injuries, losses, and damages... were directly and proximately caused by (Tamir's) failure to exercise due care to avoid injury.” Yes: The murder of Tamir - too young to drink, drive, write a check or own a gun - was his own damn fault. The suffering of his family is, likewise, his fault: The city claims that the family's “injuries, losses, and damages" were in fact  "caused by their own acts," not the city's or its wildly-gun-wielding cops.

The horrific incident was captured in a video showing the oblivious Rice shot down within two seconds of panicked cops arriving at the park - so fast the one driving was still getting out of the car - thus obliterating police claims that Rice was with a group of kids, was waving the gun in the air, had stuck it in his waistband in a threatening manner etc etc etc. The video also captured the insane moment when cops tackled and detained his distraught older sister as she tried to run toward her "baby brother." In their second 71-page lawsuit filed in January, Tamir's family cites the documented-as-unfit cop who pulled the trigger, earlier grievances against city cops, and a scathing federal investigation chronicling an "extreme and systemic....pattern of unreasonable and excessive force" by Cleveland police.

Nonetheless, the city says the city is blameless in the death of a kid playing in a park who just should have known better. Along with blaming Tamir for his inexcusable failure to "exercise due care to avoid injury" - that is, to understand the grave threat posed to him and his life by ill-trained, unthinking, racist and friggin' out of their minds police - city officials also listed 20 other defenses, including one that argues Tamir died because of "the conduct of individuals or entities other than Defendant." To understand their WTF response and the mindset behind it, it's instructive to read an interview with the head of Cleveland's police union, who declared Tamir altogether "in the wrong." In his narrative, he sees Tamir "squaring off" with police as he tucks his so-called weapon - a pellet gun - in his waistband, even though he didn't. "He's menacing," he says. "He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds....He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body.”

What he means, of course, is he's a 12-year-old in the wrong body. An "indicted, criminal body." A black body. Thus is Tamir found guilty of the crime of his own death. It's been said before, and it clearly needs to keep getting said: Amidst many calls and a few inept efforts to hold the police accountable, nothing will change in this country - there will be neither justice nor peace - until cops are made to do substantially better.

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