Cleveland mayor apologizes for claiming Tamir Rice was responsible for his own death

The city blamed Rice's death on "the failure of Plaintiff's decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury"

By Joanna Rothkopf
March 3, 2015 7:30PM (UTC)
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This undated photo provided by the family's attorney shows Tamir Rice. (AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)

When the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy killed by Cleveland cops some months ago, sued the city for wrongful death and immeasurable damages, it was unclear what defense the city would use. In an especially callous legal maneuver, the city responded by blaming the incident on Rice. In the city's response to the lawsuit, it's lawyers wrote that "Plaintiff's decedent's injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of Plaintiffs' decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury."

The lawyers further claimed that Rice's family's suffering was "directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant."

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Rice was killed by police on Nov. 22 while playing with a toy gun in a park. The police waited two seconds before fatally gunning down the child.

On Monday, one of the Rice family's attorneys Walter Madison responded to the defense strategy: "What they said is incredulous at best. It's unbelievable," he said. "There are a number of things that we in a society don't allow 12-year-olds to do. We don't allow them to vote, we don't allow them to drink. In court, we don't try them as adults. They don't have the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions."

Later that afternoon, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson officially apologized for the "very insensitive" reaction to the lawsuit.

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"In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive. Very insensitive to the tragedy in general, the family, and the victim in particular," said Jackson. "It is not part of the character of the city of Cleveland and this administration. So we are apologizing today as a city to the family of Tamir Rice and to the citizens of the city of Cleveland for our poor use of words and our insensitivity in the use of those words."


Joanna Rothkopf

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Cleveland Lawsuit Police Police Brutality Tamir Rice