The mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot to death by a Cleveland police officer, reacted coolly on Tuesday to an apology by the city for a court filing that blamed her son for his own death.
In a televised news conference, Samaria Rice dismissed an Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson's apology Monday disavowing language in the city’s legal answer to a wrongful death suit brought by the family. The filing blamed Tamir Rice for failing to exercise care and said that contributed to the shooting of the African American boy by a white police officer in November.
“The city’s answer was very disrespectful to my son Tamir,” Samaria Rice told reporters. “I have not yet received an apology from the police department or from the city of Cleveland in regards to the killing of my son.
“And it hurts,” she said.
The Rice family sued the city in December over Tamir's death and how the boy's sister was treated by police after the shooting. The incident was caught on video, which shows Tamir playing in a park with a cellphone and a toy gun that uses pellets. Police arrive, responding to a 911 call, and the boy is quickly shot.
In papers filed in federal court Friday, the city said Tamir was responsible for his own death and said the injuries, losses and damages were “directly and proximately caused by the failure of [Tamir] to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
On Monday, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson disavowed the filing, calling it “insensitive.”
“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” Jackson said. “Very insensitive to the tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular.”
The city will file amended documents “that will deal with the insensitivity of the language and the characterization we use but also at the same time preserve the defense,” Jackson said.
One of the Rice family's lawyers, Walter Madison described the mayor's comments as “appropriate” but said the family was seeking more.
“This is a mother who lost her child,” Madison said. “No one has apologized for the death of her child. That’s what we are seeking.”
“Had it not been for the overwhelming black backlash, not just here in Cleveland but all across America,” it is unlikely the city would have apologized for the language, said Benjamin L. Crump, another of the family’s attorneys.
“We believe it continues a pattern from the police department of disrespect to Tamir Rice and his family,” Crump said of the city filing. “It was very disrespectful how they killed Tamir Rice on that fateful day.”
Rice was shot by police officer Timothy Loehmann on Nov. 22 as the child played in a Cleveland park. The city has maintained that officers gave Tamir three warnings before firing, but the family's attorneys dispute that.
According to an analysis of the video conducted for the Rice family, the police car pulls up near the child and the shots begin in less than a second, not nearly enough time for three warnings to have been given, Madison and Crump say.
“The police aren’t under attack, the institutional behavior is,” Madison said. “The healthy thing to do is acknowledge some responsibility and sit down and see what we can do to make sure that this never happens again.”
The shooting is being investigated by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office.
The death of Tamir Rice was one of several incidents last year that ignited questions about policing and African Americans.
The Cleveland shooting was days before a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to charge a white police officer in the deadly shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Mo.
About a week later, a Staten Island grand jury declined to charge a New York police officer in the death of Eric Garner, who died after officers put him in an apparent chokehold.
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