Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio on November 22, 2014. (Photo: AP)

City of Cleveland Lawyers Argue 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice to Blame for Being Shot Dead by Police

The shooting of boy, who was holding a toy gun in a park and given almost no time to respond to officers' order, was captured on video

Nadia Prupis

Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio last November, was "directly and proximately" responsible for his own shooting death, argue the city's laywers in response to a civil lawsuit filed by the boy's family.

Rice was killed while playing in a park with a toy gun, which Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann claimed he mistook as a real weapon when he shot the boy.

The lawsuit—filed in December and amended in January—charges that the city of Cleveland—including Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback—as well as 100 other unnamed 911 operators, police officers, and city employees violated the family's civil rights in the November 22 shooting.

The city's defense, filed in U.S. district court on Friday, lists (pdf) 20 defenses in total, including a claim that Rice failed to "exercise due care to avoid injury" in the incident and that some of Rice's family members, particularly his mother and 14-year-old sister, Tajai, are responsible for any damages done to themselves during the incident.

Rice's shooting death fueled ongoing protests in the U.S. against police militarization and racial profiling in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other unarmed black men and women around the country.

Video footage of Rice's shooting in Cuddell Recreational Center shows Loehmann firing at Tamir within seconds of arriving at the scene. Following the shooting, the footage shows that neither Loehmann nor Garmback move to administer first aid to the boy as he lies bleeding in the snow.

Rice's family, as well as civil rights advocates, say the video evidence shows Rice was not given any time to respond to any orders. They also dispute the city's claim that Tamir's sister Tajai caused her own injuries after both Loehmann and his partner tackled and handcuffed her as she attempted to reach her brother, screaming, "My baby brother, they killed my baby brother!"

According to the suit, when Rice's mother Samaria arrived, officers gave her the option of going to the hospital with Tamir or staying with her handcuffed daughter in the squad car.

The lawsuit also refers to the Justice Department's separate report on the Cleveland Police Department's history of using excessive force against suspects, as well as revelations that Loehmann was hired by the city after failing necessary tests to join other forces in Akron, Euclid, and Parma Heights. Loehmann's personnel file from November 2012 described that the officer "could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal."

"I do believe that a 12-year-old child died unnecessarily at the hands of Cleveland police officers and I do believe that certain officers shouldn't have been entitled to wear the uniform," Walter Madison, one of the attorneys representing the Rice family, said last week.

The lawsuit also accuses the city of using a current investigation by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office into the shooting as an excuse to withhold evidence.

In its defense document, the city maintained—as it has in the past—that the force did not know of Loehmann's background when he was hired. It also said it could not respond to the suit in full because of the Cuyahoga County probe and denied that it was using that investigation to cover up information about the shooting.

Madison added to NBC News that Rice was "shot and killed unnecessarily... at the hands of an unfit police officer(s) and a division of police that continues to endorse their behavior."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Despite Outcry, Japanese Prime Minister Urges Swift Release of Fukushima Wastewater Into Sea

South Korea has said the release of the radioactive wastewater poses a "grave threat" to marine life.

Julia Conley ·

Colin Powell, Who Helped George W. Bush Lie Nation Into Iraq War, Dead at 84

"It's crucial to remember just how important Colin Powell was to selling the Iraq War, and how deliberately he used his public credibility to boost the lies that pushed us into the war. That is his biggest legacy."

Jon Queally ·

'Indefensible': US Billionaires Became $2.1 Trillion Richer in 19 Months of Pandemic

New analysis shows that just 745 individuals have combined $5 trillion in wealth—most of which will never be taxed—as nations reels from pain inflicted by Covid-19.

Jon Queally ·

Coalition Urges Biden to Make 'Transformative Change' in Approach to Global Food and Agriculture

"This pro-corporate agriculture agenda must change under your watch."

Andrea Germanos ·

Mondaire Jones Warns Against Watering Down Human Infrastructure Proposals

The New York Democrat is advocating universal programs, not means-tested ones, for programs in the Build Back Better plan.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo