Five months after African-American 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a white police officer while playing in a park near his home in Cleveland, his family has been unable to bury him, his mother has at one point moved into a homeless shelter, and his loved ones have seen neither redress nor justice, according to a court document filed Monday.
"In less than a second my son is gone," said Samaria Rice at a news conference in front of the Cleveland courthouse on Monday. "And I want to know how long I've got to wait for justice."
The filing and statement came in response to a request from the city of Cleveland for the family to stay its federal civil rights lawsuit against it until the city had concluded its own investigation.
The family answered with a resounding "no," expressing concern that "there is no end in sight" to the investigation. If the suit were to be paused, evidence could be lost, the plaintiffs could "suffer prejudice," and the family would be left to languish in limbo, causing them even further distress, the document stated.
"This incident has also shattered the life of the Rice family," the document continues. "In particular, Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice's mother, has since been forced to move to a homeless shelter because she could no longer live next door to the killing field of her son. Because it is unknown whether there may need to be an additional medical examination, the body of Tamir Rice has not [been] put to rest. Tamir Rice not being finally laid to rest prevents emotional healing and incurs a daily expense. The foot dragging of this investigation has now spanned three seasons."
Mike Petty, identified as Samaria Rice's uncle, declared at Monday's press conference: "My niece here has been displaced out of her home as a result of this, had to get emergency shelter as a result of this injustice. What I’m here to do is support her, and we do want to know how long."
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"All of us have seen the video," Petty continued. "In less than .78 seconds, two shots were fired. They said that they told him to put his hands up three times. That could not have happened, from what we saw in the video. We want justice for Tamir. Tamir was only 12 years old."
On November 22, Tamir Rice was shot while playing with a toy gun in a park near his home in Cleveland. White police officer Timothy Loehmann fired his gun at the child within seconds of arriving at the scene, shooting him in the chest.
Video evidence shows that neither Loehmann or Frank Garmback, the other officer present, moved to provide first aid to Rice while he lay dying. Furthermore, both officers tackled and handcuffed Tamir's sister Tajai Rice as she attempted to help her brother. Tamir Rice was declared dead later that day.
In response to the family's lawsuit, city lawyers argued in February that Tamir Rice was responsible for his own death and his sister to blame for her injuries. There has been no resolution to the city's investigation, despite the explicit—and widely viewed—video evidence.
The killing of Tamir Rice, and the city's refusal to take responsibility, sparked protests and outrage in a city with a troubling history of police violence. A nearly two-year probe released last December by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Cleveland Police Department has a "pattern or practice of unreasonable and unnecessary use of force," violates the civil rights of local residents, and routinely fails to adequately investigate law enforcement for wrongdoing.
The call "Justice for Tamir Rice" has added to the crescendo of voices, from Ferguson to New York to Baltimore, demanding an end to police killings and institutional racism and declaring that Black Lives Matter.