CLEVELAND (AP) – A 12-year-old boy who had a pellet gun when he was shot by police died as a result of his own actions, and the city of Cleveland isn’t to blame, its lawyers said in response to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the child’s family.
Tamir Rice’s injuries and the subsequent complaints for damages stemmed from his actions and failure “to exercise due care to avoid injury,” the city said in court documents filed late last week. It similarly said the “injuries, losses and damages” cited for his relatives in the complaint “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts,” not by the city.
Those are among 20 defenses briefly listed in Cleveland’s response to the federal lawsuit. The city also said that it didn’t violate Tamir’s federal rights and that it is entitled to certain legal immunities.
One of the family’s attorneys, Walter Madison, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group that the complaint has merit.
“I do believe that a 12-year-old child died unnecessarily at the hands of Cleveland police officers and I do believe that certain officers shouldn’t have been entitled to wear the uniform,” he said.
Tamir was shot in the abdomen by an officer responding to a call about someone with a firearm near a recreation center on Nov. 22. The officer fired within two seconds of the police car stopping nearby, and the confrontation was captured on surveillance video. Tamir had been carrying what turned out to be an airsoft-type gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets.
The federal lawsuit alleges excessive force, negligence, infliction of emotional distress on his sister and mother, violation of due process for the parents, and failure by the responding officers to immediately provide first aid to the boy, who died the next day. It also claims false imprisonment of Tamir’s 14-year-old sister, who ran toward the scene after the shooting, struggled with police and was handcuffed and put into a cruiser parked near her wounded brother.
The Cuyahoga County sheriff’s department is investigating the shooting. A prosecutor has promised that a grand jury will consider whether the case merits criminal charges.