The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

It’s Tamir Rice’s fault

Undated photo of Tamir Rice provided by his family’s attorney. (Courtesy of Richardson & Kucharski Co. L.P.A. via Associated Press)

As if the November 2014 Cleveland police shooting of Tamir Rice wasn’t bad enough. The Post’s Wesley Lowery reports that the city of Cleveland is blaming the 12-year-old who was playing with a toy gun in a park near his home for his own death. In response to the federal lawsuit filed by Tamir’s family, city officials accuse Tamir of “failure…to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

Right. It’s Tamir’s fault that the 911 caller’s admonition that the gun he was playing with was “probably fake” never made it to the officers.

It’s Tamir’s fault that he was shot and killed by police officer Timothy Loehmann just “1½ to 2 seconds” after his car arrived on the scene.

It’s Tamir’s fault that Loehmann quit his previous police job before he was dismissed for “deficiencies” only to be hired by a police department now under federal investigation for “allegations that CPD officers use excessive force, including unreasonable deadly force.”

It’s Tamir’s fault that first aid was administered, not by Loehmann or his partner, but by an FBI agent who happened to be in the area — four minutes after Tamir was shot.

And it’s Tamir’s fault that he was not seen as a child. “Shots fired, male down, um, black male, maybe 20,” one of the officers said when calling in the shooting. Or as Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association president Steve Loomis told Politico magazine, “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.” Given everything we know now about his case, the rest of Loomis’s quote is literally and figuratively unbelievable.

Editor's note: This video contains graphic content. The family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police while carrying a BB gun in a Cleveland park, authorized the release of surveillance footage showing the incident. (Video: Cleveland Police)

That black children don’t get to be children, as Stacey Patton reminded in an op-ed for The Post last November, is as enraging as it is heartbreaking. The Cleveland response to the Rice family lawsuit is but further proof that African American men and boys must live their lives beyond reproach, devoid of mistakes and bad choices at any age, if they are to avoid being blamed for their own death.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj