By Lily Workneh -Huff Post Black Voices
An ongoing federal lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice prompted a response from the city of Cleveland last week arguing that the 12-year-old was responsible for his own death.
The city’s claims caused outrage from family and community members — and perhaps led to a public apology from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson who shared the city’s regrets for the language they used.
“This is not the character or personality of the city of Cleveland to be that insensitive to the family or even the victim,” Jackson said at a news conference on Monday, according to local news station Fox 8.
A series of defenses filed on Friday show that the city claimed Rice’s fatal shooting was a result from his failure to “exercise due care to avoid injury” and that the family’s “injuries, losses and damages” were caused by their own acts.
The city’s response to the federal lawsuit, which lists approximately 20 defenses, have left Rice’s family in “disbelief.”
“They were completely and totally outraged by the city’s response,” Walter Madison, an attorney for Rice’s family, told HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski on Monday. “They have just begun to pick up the pieces after having lost a loved one and then to be blown to pieces yet again about this incredulous claim that this 12-year-old is at fault for his death.”
Rice died on Nov. 22 after officers responded to a call about a person holding a firearm near a recreation center. Officer Timothy Loehmann, a rookie cop who has received poor performance reviews in the past, fatally shot Rice almost immediately upon arrival. It was quickly revealed that Rice had been carrying a non-lethal toy gun with plastic pellets — the incident was also captured on video.
“You can look at that video and see for yourself, in 1.7 seconds, they shot this young child without any respect or deference to give him time to comply,” Madison said. “I do not believe that [Loehmann] should be absolved and the family certainly is hopeful that justice is done.”
In further defense of the officer’s actions, Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, suggested that Tamir’s height and stature also played a role in his death.
“Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” Loomis told Politico in a piece published last week. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body.”
In response, Madison slammed this theory and expressed his thoughts on how Loomis’ comments were another example of victim-blaming.
“That’s ridiculous. We know from all the incidents before that that’s just a common response, that’s the playbook, the seems to be the script, to victim blame,” he said.
“Now, however, we’re talking about blaming a 12-year-old for his own death. Essentially, what they’re telling the world is that we’ve created a new standard for 12-year-old children nationwide that they’re going to be responsible for consequences that we don’t expect 12 years to really appreciate.”
HuffPost Live has asked the Cleveland Police Department to comment. They have yet to respond.