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Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot by police as he played with a toy gun in a park with his sister, is to blame for his own death because he failed to "avoid injury," Cleveland officials have claimed in a court document.
The city made the argument in a 41-page court filing presented in response to a civil lawsuit filed by Rice's family. The city argues that the sixth-grader was responsible for police officer Timothy Loehmann firing two shots into him just seconds after Loehmann and his partner pulled up to the Cuddell Recreation Center in their police cruiser on November 22.
All injuries, losses, and damages related to Rice's death "were directly and proximately caused by the failure of Plaintiffs' decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury," the court filing reads. The city's defense comes as family members allege officers failed to administer first aid to Rice as he lay dying on the pavement.
Rice's death was among a series of high-profile shootings that sparked massive nationwide protests against police brutality and racial discrimination in recent months. Surveillance footage of the shooting has circulated widely and provoked out outrage.
The grainy video shows Loehmann firing his service weapon at the boy approximately two seconds after the officers arrived on the scene, responding to a report of a person with a gun. It also shows cops rushing to restrain Rice's 14-year-old sister as she attempts to check on her wounded sibling. One officer pushed the girl to the ground and handcuffed her as she screamed, "My baby brother, they killed my baby brother," the family claims in their suit.
An attorney for the Rice family Monday called the city's defense "incredulous at best."
"It's unbelievable," Walter Madison told the Washington Post. "There are a number of things that we in 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."
Loehmann, 26, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident. He previously failed a written cognitive exam for sheriff recruits in the country. He was also described as "weepy" and found to be unfit for duty by a senior officer in an Ohio police department, where he served for five months in 2012.
A grand jury will later determine whether Loehmann will face criminal charges in the matter.
"What the city officials have done for a 12-year-old is set a new standard for children in their response," Madison said. "All of that assumes that they're not responsible for hiring this guy who was emotionally unfit to be a police officer."