Leonard Warner, the biological father of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, says the devastation over his son's death caused him to move back in with the boy's grandmother. "I'm still down and out," Warner said this week in an interview with local news outlet WKYC-TV.
It's the first time that Warner, who is reportedly estranged from his son's mother, spoke publicly about coping with Rice's death. Last week marked six months since the shooting, which sparked national protests over the use of lethal force by police against African-American men and boys. Warner said Rice's remaining siblings have struggled to accept what happened. Tamir was killed in November by a Cleveland police officer while carrying what turned out to be a toy gun,
"Every time they wake up, they're asking about him," Warner said of Rice's younger half siblings during the interview. "They go to sleep, they asking about him. I can't tell 'em [that he's coming back,] but he's watching over you."
Walter Madison, the Rice family attorney, said both of the boy's parents have said there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against police officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot the preteen outside of a neighborhood park on Nov. 22. "The [Department of Justice] consent agreement vindicates that [Tamir Rice] did not receive justice that day and that he did not have to die," Madison said, referring to a DOJ settlement on Cleveland police training reforms announced by federal officials after they determined that local officers routinely used excessive force.
Police have said Rice held an airsoft BB gun that was indistinguishable from a deadly firearm because the orange safety cap had been removed. A caller told police "a guy with a gun was pointing it at people," in a playground outside of the Cudell Recreation Center. Although the caller stated twice that the gun was "probably fake," police officers were dispatched to the center.
When officers arrived, they claimed to see Rice pick up a black gun and tuck it in his waistband. They told Rice to raise his hands. Instead, they say Rice pulled out the gun and Loehmann shot the boy twice. Rice died at the hospital the following morning.
Warner told WKYC that he didn't know why his son would think it was okay to brandish the gun. "The only person [who] knows is him," he said.