Tamir Rice's Mother Moved To A Homeless Shelter To Avoid The Scene Of Her Son's Death, Court Filings State
Five months after losing her 12-year-old son, Tamir, in a police-involved shooting, Samaria Rice says she's chosen to move into a homeless shelter rather than remain at her house directly next to where Officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shot her son on Nov. 22. Tamir, who was black, was playing with a toy gun and throwing snowballs on a playground when the white officers approached him. More than five months later, his death — which has provoked protests both in Cleveland and across the country — remains under investigation. Eager to avoid the mistakes made in Ferguson, Cleveland officials requested that a third party carry out the criminal investigation into Loehmann and Frank Garmback.
“This decision to turn the investigation over was made to ensure that transparency and an extra layer of separation and impartiality were established,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said in January. “I believe that the best way to ensure accountability in a use of force investigation is to have it completed by an outside agency.”
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department took over on Jan. 2. But the investigation has continued to drag on. Since then, Rice’s family claims, the sheriff’s office has not contacted them.
In turn, the officers involved have requested that a judge halt the Rice family’s civil lawsuit against them until the criminal proceedings have concluded. They claim that they will be afraid to participate in any civil depositions and give statements about Tamir's death that could then be used against them in a later criminal case where the evidentiary standard is higher but the penalties are much graver.
In legal documents filed Monday, Rice’s family requested that the judge refuse to issue a stay against their lawsuit, arguing that such an indefinite delay could compromise evidence and would cause the family and the broader community undue harm.
“This incident has also shattered the life of the Rice Family,” the court filings state. “In particular, Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, has since been forced to move to a homeless shelter because she could no longer live next door to the killing field of her son. Because it is unknown whether there may need to be an additional medical examination; the body of Tamir Rice has not be put to rest.”
Furthermore, the court documents add, “the public demonstrations and protest throughout Cleveland as well as the nation are indicative of the concern and interest that this matter not be stayed. A stay would delay justice and ignore the greater civil rights issue that has dominated American interest and legislative agendas throughout the United States.”
It remains to be seen whether the courts will side with the officers’ Fifth Amendment claims or with the Rice family’s push for a timely civil investigation into their son’s death.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who works with the Rice family, told reporters at a news conference Monday that the Rice’s death remains another sad example of a pattern of police abuse of African American youth:
It is so sad that the face of police brutality in America is going to be the 12-year-old face of Tamir Rice. We come here to Cleveland, Ohio, brothers and sisters, where we had video capture the whole entire episode of what happened to claim this baby’s life. And yet, after five months and counting, no one has been charged, no one has been held accountable for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
On Nov. 22, 2014, Officers Loehmann and Garmback were responding to a 911 call reporting a young black male playing with a gun, most likely a toy, on a nearby playground. Although the officers initially alleged that the youngster had ignored three requests to put down the pellet gun and instead taken a threatening step towards them, video footage released soon after the incident revealed a different story. Loehmann fired shots directly into Tamir's stomach after barely two seconds on the scene as he leapt from his patrol car, sliding on the snow.
According to court documents filed by the Rice family, both officers waited more than four minutes after the shots before trying to give the boy any life-saving care.
Until the criminal investigation is concluded and the district attorney decides whether or not to bring charges against Loehmann or Garmback before a grand jury, Cleveland officials wait with bated breath, eager to avoid the violent protests that have wracked Ferguson and Baltimore following similar instances of police brutality.
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