Cleveland leaders apologize over blaming boy for own death

This undated photo provided by the family's attorney shows Tamir Rice. Rice, 12, was fatally shot by police in Cleveland after brandishing what turned out to be a replica gun, triggering an investigation into his death and a legislator's call for such weapons to be brightly colored or bear special markings. (AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland’s mayor apologized on Monday after the city’s lawyers suggested in court documents that a 12-year-old boy who had a pellet gun when he was shot by police died as a result of his own actions.

Mayor Frank Jackson said the city’s response to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Tamir Rice’s family was poorly worded and offensive.

“We used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” the mayor said.

The court documents filed late last week by the city said Tamir’s injuries and the subsequent complaints for damages stemmed from his actions and failure “to exercise due care to avoid injury.” 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.

Jackson said that he’s talked with representatives of Tamir’s family, and that the city plans to alter the wording in the documents within the next three weeks.

“We are sincerely apologetic for our misuse and mischaracterization of our answer to that complaint,” he said.

The city said in response to the federal lawsuit 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.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s