Cleveland, OH- The city of Cleveland, in response to the 71-page lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice on January 30th, has claimed that the death of Tamir Rice and the subsequent injuries suffered by his family were “directly and proximately caused by the acts of Plaintiffs’ decedent.” Among the city’s 20 defenses in its answer to the family’s civil complaint was the assertion that the 12-year-old’s death was “caused by the failure of Plaintiffs’ decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
In Cleveland’s answer to the complaint, it was noted that the city was unable to respond in full due to the ongoing police investigation into the incident. The investigation is currently being conducted by the Cuyahoga County sheriff’s office, and it’s unknown when that investigation will be completed.
Tamir was shot and killed by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann last November after a person dialed 911 reporting somebody with a “probably fake” gun. Tamir had a pellet gun in his possession. Surveillance video surfaced soon after the shooting, showing that Tamir was shot within two seconds of the arrival of Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback.
The family of Tamir Rice had originally filed a lawsuit in December 2014, but filed a larger amended lawsuit a month later after new details had emerged. The lawsuit made references to a Justice Department report of the Cleveland Police Department, released on December 4th, 2014, that had concluded that the agency believed the CPD “engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” Also in the amended lawsuit was the aftermath of the shooting of Tamir when his 14-year-old sister, Tajai, was tackled and thrown to the ground by police before being handcuffed and placed in a cruiser ten feet away from her dying brother.
The Rice family’s suit also included information about Loehmann, the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice. Before joining the CPD, Loehmann was employed by the Independence Police Department, and personnel files from his time there revealed that he had been recommended to be released from the department due to documented “emotional perplexity” and an inability to properly handle firearms. During Loehmann’s firearm training he was found to be “distracted and weepy” and “could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.” Loehmann was described as “not mature enough in his accepting of responsibility or his understanding in the severity of his loss of control on the range” and his superior felt that further training would not correct his behavior. Cleveland police admitted that they never saw the files before hiring Loehmann.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis described Tamir Rice last week as “menacing” and has defended Officers Loehmann and Garmback while dismissing the media’s scrutiny of Loehmann’s personnel file as a “sideshow”. “There’s this perception that police just slid up in the car and shot him. That’s not reality from the officers’ perception. They acted based on what they knew at the time,” Loomis said regarding the officers’ actions.
“Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” he said. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body. Tamir looks to his left and sees a police car. He puts his gun in his waistband. Those people- 99 percent of the time those people run away from us. We don’t want him running into the rec center. That could be a whole other set of really bad events. They’re trying to flush him into the field. Frank [the driver] is expecting the kid to run. The circumstances are so fluid and unique.”
Walter Madison, an attorney for the Rice family, said that the city’s response to the lawsuit is “incredulous at best. It’s unbelievable.”
“What the city officials have done for a 12-year-old is set a new standard for children in their response, and all of that assumes that they’re not responsible for hiring this guy who was emotionally unfit to be a police officer,” Madison said.
More information about the shooting of Tamir Rice is available here.