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Cleveland agrees to pay $6 million to settle Tamir Rice lawsuit, won’t admit any wrongdoing

A Cleveland grand jury declined to bring charges against two police officers in the shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy. (Video: Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

The city of Cleveland will pay $6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the relatives of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot and killed by a police officer in 2014, according to a settlement announced Monday.

Under the terms of the agreement, which still has to be approved by a probate court, the city will pay $3 million this year and $3 million next year to settle the lawsuit. The bulk of the money will be paid to Rice’s estate.

The settlement does not include any admission of wrongdoing, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster wrote in a one-page document filed Monday.

“Although historic in financial terms, no amount of money can adequately compensate for the loss of a life,” attorneys for Rice’s family said in a statement. “Tamir was 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police — a young boy with his entire life ahead of him, full of potential and promise. In a situation such as this, there is no such thing as closure or justice. Nothing will bring Tamir back.”

Calls for calm after grand jury declines to indict officers in the case

This lawsuit was filed not long after a Cleveland police officer fatally shot Tamir, who was playing with a toy gun in a park when authorities were called to the scene. Tamir’s death was one of several high-profile incidents that propelled an ongoing national discussion over how police officers use deadly force, particularly against black men and boys.

While the call about a man with a gun specified that the person may have been a child with a toy weapon, the officers — Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback — were not told that when they responded.

Both officers, along with the city of Cleveland, were named as defendants in the federal lawsuit filed less than two weeks after Tamir was killed. On Monday, the officers said they still believe they acted legally, even as they said they saw the benefits of settling the case.

“The officers value the lives of all persons, including their own, and certainly wish that fate had not brought them into the situation that forced them to act in the manner in which they did; which they maintain was ‘legally reasonable’ under all of the circumstances,” an attorney for both officers said in a statement. “That having been said, the officers recognize the value of early legal resolution to allow some healing to begin.”

In December, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Loehmann. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, who lost a reelection bid last month, said that while Rice’s death was a tragedy, “it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime.” The jurors decided that the shooting was justified and never voted on the question of criminal charges. Officers are rarely charged for fatally shooting people while on duty, and convictions in such cases are even more rare.

Polster agreed to oversee settlement talks between attorneys for Rice’s family and the city’s lawyers last month. In his order filed Monday, Polster wrote that the settlement was reached after an all-day discussion on April 1 followed by numerous telephone calls.

“While we have settled the legal side of this and the court proceedings side of this for $6 million dollars, there is no price that you can put on the life, the loss of a 12-year-old child,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at a news conference Monday.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said Monday that while the city has reached a $6 million settlement with the family of Tamir Rice, "there is no price that you can put on the life of a 12-year-old child." Rice was shot dead by a police officer in 2014. (Video: Reuters)

The seven-figure settlement in Cleveland is the latest in a series of payouts for the families of those killed by police officers in incidents that sparked protests. New York City agreed to pay $5.9 million to the family of Eric Garner, whose death after being put in a chokehold by a police officer was captured on video by a bystander.

The city of Baltimore agreed to pay $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody a year ago led to charges against six officers. And in North Charleston, S.C., the city paid $6.5 million to the family of Walter Scott, whose shooting — captured on camera — led to murder charges against the officer involved.

Further reading:

People shot and killed by police so far this year

Six police officers in Cleveland fired for “137 shots” car chase

This developing story has been updated. First published: 10:01 a.m.