Cleveland lawyers offered a disrespectful response to a lawsuit filed for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, fatally shot by police outside a recreation center in November, the boy’s mother said on Tuesday.
A police officer responding to a report of a suspect brandishing a handgun shot Rice, who was holding a replica pistol that fires mainly plastic pellets, within two seconds of arriving at a playground. Rice died the next day.
A court-filed response to the lawsuit by city lawyers blamed Rice’s actions in part for the shooting and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson apologized on Monday for the document’s phrasing.
“The city’s answer was very disrespectful to my son, Tamir,” Samaria Rice told a news conference. “I have not received an apology from the police department or the city of Cleveland in regards to the killing of my son, and it hurts.”
Samaria Rice said she would accept an apology, if there was one on the table with city actions where people would be held accountable for the shooting.
The shooting contributed to a national uproar over race and policing in the United States.
Benjamin Crump, who represents the Rice family, called the city’s legal response shocking.
“We find it very insulting and disrespectful not just to this family, but to the memory of a dead child,” Crump said. “The city had at least 30 days to deliberate, to contemplate and articulate their response to our complaint.”
Jackson said the language was standard for the city to fight a lawsuit aggressively, but said the wording would be changed.
The pellet gun that Rice was playing with in the park was a replica gun that looked a lot like a real weapon.
The Cleveland police department has been criticized by federal officials for routine excessive use of force, and the city is in the process of agreeing to policing reforms with the Department of Justice, including the use of body cameras.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland and Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney)