The city of Cleveland says that Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African-American boy who was shot and killed while playing with a toy gun, and his family, are to blame for his death.
The injuries alleged by the child and his family “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant,” the city wrote, responding to a lawsuit filed by the family against the officers and a number of unnamed 911 operators, police officers and city employees.
On Nov. 22, Rice was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center when police were called to the scene for reports of a man with a weapon. Two seconds after pulling up to the scene, Rice was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann, and died just one day later. Video showed footage of the scene. Officials later discovered the child had a non-lethal pellet gun.
Outrage exploded nationally and many saw Rice’s death as the latest in a long list of young, unarmed black men who have been killed by biased police, though his youth made the case particularly volatile. Anger was buoyed when the Justice Department released a furious report alleging excessive force, with officers often pulling their guns and shooting too readily; yet another report found that the officer who killed Rice had been declared unfit for duty by another police force before he was hired in Cleveland.
But Cleveland argued in the suit that the death of the boy was caused “by the failure … to exercise due care to avoid injury.” It also tried to put the blame on others, saying the boy died because of “the conduct of individuals or entities other than Defendant.”
The filing claims 20 different defenses in their response to the family’s lawsuit, which was filed in December and amended in January. They also say they’re still investigating the death and won’t know the full details of the case until they finish, but offer no timetable for finishing that investigation.
Lawyers for the Rice family say many questions still remain. Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the family, asked at a press conference in January: “Will the decision be the same as Brown and Garner?” he asked. “Will Tamir’s death be swept under the rug?”