Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio last November, was “directly and proximately” responsible for his own shooting death, argue the city’s laywers in response to a civil lawsuit filed by the boy’s family.
Rice was killed while playing in a park with a toy gun, which Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann claimed he mistook as a real weapon when he shot the boy.
The lawsuit—filed in December and amended in January—charges that the city of Cleveland—including Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback—as well as 100 other unnamed 911 operators, police officers, and city employees violated the family’s civil rights in the November 22 shooting.
The city’s defense, filed in U.S. district court on Friday, lists (pdf) 20 defenses in total, including a claim that Rice failed to “exercise due care to avoid injury” in the incident and that some of Rice’s family members, particularly his mother and 14-year-old sister, Tajai, are responsible for any damages done to themselves during the incident.
Rice’s shooting death fueled ongoing protests in the U.S. against police militarization and racial profiling in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other unarmed black men and women around the country.
Video footage of Rice’s shooting in Cuddell Recreational Center shows Loehmann firing at Tamir within seconds of arriving at the scene. Following the shooting, the footage shows that neither Loehmann nor Garmback move to administer first aid to the boy as he lies bleeding in the snow.
Rice’s family, as well as civil rights advocates, say the video evidence shows Rice was not given any time to respond to any orders. They also dispute the city’s claim that Tamir’s sister Tajai caused her own injuries after both Loehmann and his partner tackled and handcuffed her as she attempted to reach her brother, screaming, “My baby brother, they killed my baby brother!”
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