The City of Cleveland has asked the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot and killed while he played with a toy gun in a Westside park in November, to halt their civil lawsuit until the official investigation has concluded.
The request, penned by city lawyers, says that delaying the lawsuit will protect the two officers involved in the shooting from making statements now, before knowing if they’ll be charged with a crime.
On Monday, Rice’s family responded: They can’t wait any longer.
In a court filing dated Monday, Rice’s family said they cannot agree to hold off on their lawsuit until the investigation is complete in part because they are worried that crucial evidence could be lost. In addition, they said, the elongated pace at which the investigation is moving is causing them sustained distress.
“The incident has shattered the life of the Rice family,” the motion stated.
Rice’s mother, the motion goes on to state, has moved into a homeless shelter.
“In particular, Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, has since been forced to move to a homeless shelter because she could no longer live next door to the killing field of her son,” the motion said.
And, with the investigation still lingering, the Rice family said they have yet to bury Tamir because it is unclear if there will be need for any additional medical examination.
“Plaintiffs are incurring expense daily and are unsure if they can finally rest Tamir Rice due to the pending investigation,” the motion filed by the family reads. “A stay would exacerbate this expense and emotional distress.”
Tamir was shot on Nov. 22 as he threw snowballs and played with a toy gun in a Cleveland park near his home. A resident exiting a nearby community center saw Tamir with the toy gun and phoned police, telling them there was a boy playing with what looked like a gun — noting to the dispatcher that it was likely a toy.
Those close to the police department have advanced the narrative that the officers, unaware that the caller indicated Tamir was likely playing with a toy, expected the boy to run. Instead, as they jumped a curb and drove at him and a playground gazebo, Tamir took a step toward the rapidly advancing police cruiser — startling one of the emerging officers, who shot him.
“It is so sad that the face of police brutality in America is going to be the 12-year-old face of Tamir Rice,” declared attorney Benjamin Crump, who is working with the Rice family, during a news conference on Monday. “We come here to Cleveland, Ohio, brothers and sisters, where we had video capture the whole entire episode of what happened to claim this baby’s life. And yet, after five months and counting, no one has been charged, no one has been held accountable for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.”
As the Rice family waits, so does Cleveland — where community leaders are anxiously preparing for both the news of the Rice shooting investigation as well as the coming conclusion of the trial of Michael Brelo, who was involved in the massive police chase and shootout that led to the death of two unarmed black residents.
Officials here have been openly aware of the volatility nationwide around issues of law enforcement and race. Soon after the riots in Ferguson, Mo. in the fall after Darren Wilson was not indicted for the death of Michael Brown, city leaders held a forum titled: “Is Cleveland the Next Ferguson?”
When marchers took to the streets, blocking freeway traffic, police stood back and allowed them. Then, when some commuters complained, Mayor Frank Jackson declared that the protests are “the inconvenience of freedom.”
Last week, as parts of Baltimore burned following the funeral of Freddie Gray — a black man who died in police custody after what prosecutors have called an illegal arrest — Jackson wrote a letter to community and business leaders.
“In the wake of the tragic events that unfolded in Baltimore, and bearing in mind the series of police-related matters and legal proceedings currently in process here in Cleveland, I am writing to let you know that the City of Cleveland has been planning and is prepared to address upcoming developments,” Jackson wrote. “Clearly, these are very complex situations that affect people at every level in our community. We are focused on how best to create a sense of safety, trust and confidence in our community, while empowering our police to enforce the law and maintain order.”