The mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old fatally shot while playing with a pellet gun in a Cleveland Park, said on Monday the family wants the white officer who fired at the child to be convicted.
In her first news conference since last week’s funeral of her son, Samaria Rice was pointed and blunt when asked how she wanted Cleveland police to be held accountable for the shooting of Tamir on Nov. 22.
“I am looking for a conviction,” she told reporters.
The Rice family has retained Benjamin Crump to represent them. The lawyer also represents the family of Michael Brown, 18, fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9. Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, shot to death on Feb. 26, 2012, in Florida by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of all charges.
The Rice case was the third of a trio of recent cases involving African Americans killed by white police officers. Eric Garner died on July 17 on Staten Island when he was subdued by a New York police officer in what appeared to be a banned chokehold.
Grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to charge the officers, setting off days of demonstrations around the country that have sometimes turned violent.
As he did in the Ferguson case, Crump called for the arrest of the Cleveland officer, arguing that the evidence already met the grand jury test of probable cause, sufficient to bring the case to trial. Officials have said the case will go to a grand jury and the involved officers have been put on limited duty with pay.
“The family is very distrustful that local justices will indict,” said Crump, citing the New York and Missouri cases.
On the afternoon of Nov. 22, Tamir Rice was playing in the park around Cudell Recreation Center, less than 100 yards from his home. The 911 calls that were released by the city showed that a dispatcher received a call about a person with a gun and a police car responded.
Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner arrived and Loehmann jumped out of the car and saw Rice, who was displaying what turned out to be a toy gun. The officer fired, hitting Rice in the body and the child died the next day.
Samaria Rice told reporters that she ran to the scene when two children told her that her son had been shot. Two of her other children also ran to the playground.
Once there, police restrained the elder son and daughter, Samaria Rice said. Her daughter said she had been tackled by police, then handcuffed and put in a police car, the mother said.
Samaria Rice said she was put in the passenger seat of the ambulance instead of being allowed to travel in the back with her son. She also said she didn’t see any police officer try to treat Tamir with CPR or other first-aid measures.
As for the toy gun, Rice said it must have come from a friend. “I don’t allow that type of toy in my house. Period. He got it from a friend.”
Crump and fellow counsel, Walter Madison, posed a series of questions to officials, including why the officers were on paid leave; was there a breakdown in communications between dispatchers and officers at the scene; and how the family was treated.
“The family has many, many questions that need to answered,” Crump said. “If the police are ill equipped to deal with children playing with toy guns, we need to consider outlawing toy guns.”
The Rice family has already filed a wrongful death suit against the officers and the city.
Last week, the Justice Department released its investigation that found the Cleveland police department had displayed a pattern of excessive force.
Follow @latimesmuskal for national news.