Cleveland Mayor Forced to Apologize for Claiming 12-Year-Old Shot by Police Was Responsible for his own Death

Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Mayor Frank Jackson (photo: City of Cleveland)

The mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, apologized Monday for papers filed by the city that claimed a 12-year-old boy was to blame for his fatal shooting at the hands of police.


The family of Tamir Rice, shot to death last November by Cleveland police, filed a lawsuit (pdf) against the city and the officers involved in the shooting. In its response filed Friday, the city originally claimed Rice was responsible for his own death. After news of the city’s stance got out over the weekend, Mayor Frank Jackson apologized to Rice’s family and to Cleveland residents, and said a new response to the family’s suit would be filed within 20 days. “In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive to the tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular,” Jackson said.


In its original response (pdf) to the family’s suit, the city claimed that Rice’s “injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of [Rice] to exercise due care to avoid injury,” and furthermore that his “injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the acts of [Rice], not this Defendant.”


That assertion is made even more curious by the multiple times the city used this phrase in its response to other issues brought by Rice’s family: “In light of the fact that the circumstances of this incident will not be known until the completion of the investigation by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, this Defendant is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations contained . . . ” It was unclear how the city would have known the killing was Rice’s fault if the local sheriff’s office, which has taken over the investigation to help avoid conflict-of-interest charges by the Cleveland police, hadn’t finished investigating the case.


Jackson’s apology was less than satisfactory to Rice’s family. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Rice family, said Monday, “I don’t want him just to apologize for the poor word use. I want him to apologize for the death of this 12-year-old child.”


Rice was in a park on November 22 playing with a toy gun. A bystander called police to report Rice’s activity but also mentioned that Rice was a minor and that the gun was likely a toy. Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback arrived on the scene, drove up onto the grass and before the car even stopped, Loehmann got out of the car and shot Rice. A video shows that after the shooting, the officers tackled and handcuffed Rice’s 14-year-old sister Tajai. Rice’s gun was later confirmed to be an Airsoft, which shoots plastic pellets, although the orange toy indicator was removed.


 “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,” another Rice family attorney, Walter Madison, told


In the aftermath of the shooting, it was discovered that Loehmann had faced termination from a previous job with the police department in Independence, Ohio, after being deemed emotionally unstable and unfit for duty. He was allowed to resign rather than being fired. The Cleveland department later said they’d never checked his personnel record with Independence.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

City Of Cleveland Claims Tamir Rice’s Own Actions Caused His Death (by Stephanie McNeil, Buzzfeed)

City of Cleveland Answer to Complaint (pdf)

Shooting of Tamir Rice (Wikipedia)

Everything We Know About The Tamir Rice Shooting Investigation (by Alison Vingiano, Mike Hayes and Adolfo Flores, Buzzfeed)

Cleveland Mayor Apologizes For City Response to Tamir Rice Lawsuit (by David Bailey and Mary Wisniewski, Reuters)

Should the Toy Industry be Blamed for Making Toy Guns Look too Realistic? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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