The city of Cleveland is arguing in court documents that 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot by police while holding a pellet gun last November, was responsible for his own death.
Rice’s family is suing the city in federal court over the boy’s death. In a court document filed Friday, the city offers 20 defenses, one of which states that the family’s “injuries, losses and damages … were directly and proximately caused by the acts of the Plaintiff’s decedent (Rice), not this Defendant.”
The city also argues that Rice failed to “exercise due care to avoid injury.”
The family was also cited in the court documents as responsible for Rice’s death, along with unspecified “individuals or entities” other than the city.
On Nov. 22, police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback responded to a report about a man with a gun. Loehmann, a rookie on the Cleveland force, shot Rice in the abdomen within two seconds of the patrol car stopping near the boy in a park. Rice died the next day.
A police union official has said the officers thought the gun was real and that they didn’t know Rice, who was 5 feet 7 and weighed 195 pounds, was so young.
Rice’s death, which was captured on video and sparked protests in the city, currently is being investigated by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office.
Walter Madison, an attorney representing the Rice family, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer Friday that he believes “that there’s merit in our complaint.”
“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.”
The family’s suit also references video of police restraining Rice’s 14-year-old sister, Tajai, as she attempted to aid her brother moments after the shooting, as well as questionable performance reviews of Loehmann, who served as an officer in nearby Independence, Ohio before joining Cleveland’s force.
In December, the Department of Justice released the findings of a 20-month investigation into the Cleveland police force, concluding officers engaged in a pattern of using excessive force and violating rights. The investigation was conducted prior to Rice’s death.