Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in November, was responsible for his own death, the city of Cleveland alleges in a response to a 27-count lawsuit filed by Tamir’s family. The city argued Friday in its response to the suit that Tamir’s death was caused by his own failure to properly exercise caution.
Tamir had been seen earlier that November day with a toy gun and officers said he was brandishing it when he was killed. The officers said they instructed him three times to put the weapon down. The police department later amended its statement to say Rice had been reaching for the gun, which was in his waistband, when he was shot by Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann. Loehmann and his partner Frank Garmback were also named in the suit.
“Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of plaintiffs’ decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury,” the city’s response to the lawsuit said. “Plaintiffs’ injuries, losses and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this defendant.”
Officials also said they could not fully respond to most of the allegations listed in the lawsuit, which include negligence, civil rights violations and battery against Tamir and his sister Tajai, 14, because of an ongoing investigation into the incident by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office.
Video from the scene shows the police cruiser pull up about 10 feet from a gazebo where Tamir was sitting and 1.5 seconds to 2 seconds after Loehmann opens his car door, he shoots Tamir in the stomach. After Tamir was shot, the officers tackled and handcuffed his sister. The officers did not perform first aid and Tamir died some 11 hours later. His death was ruled a homicide.
Rice’s death prompted Cleveland officials to discuss possibly turning over investigations into use-of-force incidents to outside personnel. A spokesman for Cleveland safety director, and former police Chief Michael McGrath told the Northeast Ohio Media Group in January the city has been in talks with officials in the surrounding Cuyahoga County area about handling use-of-force investigations.
The city of Cleveland is also currently facing a lawsuit from the family Tanisha Anderson, which alleges police abuse and misconduct led to her death.