CLEVELAND – The mother of the 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by Cleveland police last November said statements from city officials blaming her son for the death are “disrespectful” and “insulting” to her, her family and the city’s black community.
“The city’s answer is disrespectful to my son Tamir,” Samiria Rice said this week. “I have yet to receive an apology from the police department or the city of Cleveland in regards to the killing of my son and it hurts.”
Rice’s comments came a day after Mayor Frank Jackson apologized for the city’s “poor use of words and our insensitivity” in suggesting that it was the sixth grader’s own fault he was shot while playing on a playground holding a pellet gun.
The apology spoke to language used in the city’s response to the family’s lawsuit, but did not address the shooting itself — a fact that’s raised the ire of Rice’s lawyers and civil rights activists in Cleveland and throughout the nation.
“The city had over 30 days to deliberate and articulate its decision on Tamir Rice and they chose the words that they chose,” said attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represents the family of slain Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin. “Anytime that they try to justify – other than to say that they made a mistake – anything short of that is disrespectful from the family.”
“I don’t want him just to apologize for the poor word use and the grammatical phrases,” Crump said. “I want him to apologize for the death of this 12-year-old child, one of his citizens, at the hands of what we believe were police officers who were improperly trained.”
The Rice family lawsuit makes a half dozen allegations, including that the officers used excessive force, failed to administer aid to the boy who died the day after the shooting, and inflicted emotional distress to the boy’s mother and sister when they responded to the shooting.
Another attorney for the Rice family, Walter Madison, has said the city’s response to the lawsuit also is indicative of well-documented problems within the Cleveland Police Department.
“Their tactics that preceded (Tamir’s) death and the subsequent victim blaming are examples of the institutionalized behavior that has beset the Cleveland Police Department,” Madison said in a statement. “The Rice family’s lawsuit seeks to eliminate certain institutional behaviors and practices that have no place in our diverse community.”
Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann fired the fatal shots at Tamir in November within two seconds of arriving outside a recreation center where the 12-year-old was playing with a pellet gun, officials have said.
Cuyahoga County’s medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide but has not said whether the killing constituted a crime. An investigation is underway and a grand jury is expected to consider whether criminal charges should be brought against the officers.
At a news conference this week, Samiria Rice and her attorneys shared surveillance footage of the moment when police shot her son. Although the video had been released previously, Rice’s attorneys added a stop clock to the video, documenting that the boy was shot 0.792 seconds after a police cruiser car pulled up to the scene.
“They never even gave him a chance,” Samaria Rice said. “The whole world has seen the same video like I’ve seen, and I’m sure the whole world is saying, ‘You guys never gave him a chance.’ With that being said, it can never be justified.”