Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has apologized for the controversial language used by the city in the wake of the police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on Nov. 22.
In a response to a lawsuit filed by Rice’s relatives against the police department, the City of Cleveland on Friday blamed Rice and his family for the boy’s death. The injuries alleged by the child and his family “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant,” the city said. The complaints issued by the child’s mother and sister also were ”directly and proximately caused by the acts of Plaintiffs’ decedent,” the city added.
“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive, very insensitive to the tragedy in general, the family, and the victim in particular,” Jackson said Monday at a press conference. “So we are apologizing today as the city to the family of Tamir Rice and to the citizens of the City of Cleveland for our poor use of words and our insensitivity in the use of those words.”
Walter Madison, the family’s attorney, told msnbc that relatives were devastated by the city’s response, and that a 12-year-old child shouldn’t die for making the mistake of playing with a pellet gun in a public area. Ohio doesn’t restrict the carrying of unconcealed, loaded firearms in public.
Madison also said the family will address the public on Tuesday morning from Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland.
The mayor said the city plans to file an amended answer to the family’s lawsuit that will deal with the “insensitivity of the language and the characterization that we used.”
Rice was playing with a pellet gun outside of a recreation center on Nov. 22 when police were called to the scene over a report of a man with a weapon. Seconds after arriving at the scene, Officer Timothy Loehmann shot Rice. The child died in the hospital the next day.
Earlier this year, the Rice family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court, primarily against the Cleveland Police Department. The suit contained 27 different accusations, ranging from excessive force by the two officers and negligence, to intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment.
Rice’s death was captured on surveillance video, previously released in November upon the family’s insistence. City officials later released an extended video with additional footage that shows officers tackling Rice’s 14-year-old sister to the ground.
An autopsy report revealed that Rice died from a single gunshot wound to the torso, which struck a major blood vessel in the boy’s abdomen and injured his intestines and pelvis. Details later emerged that Loehmann had been deemed unfit for duty in 2012 by a small suburban police department where he previously worked.
The U.S. Department of Justice previously concluded an investigation that there was “reasonable cause” to believe the Cleveland Police Department routinely has used excessive force in past high-profile incidents.