Cleveland Shooting Defense Puts Blame on Boy Wielding Toy Gun

The City of Cleveland responded to a lawsuit filed by the family of a black 12-year-old killed by a police officer last year by blaming the boy, who wielded a toy gun.

Cleveland’s lawyers made that claim in a federal court filing there on Friday in the case of the shooting death of Tamir Rice.

Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, who is white, shot Rice on Nov. 22 while responding to an emergency call about a person with a gun walking around a public park.

The incident aggravated already tense police relations between minority groups across the U.S., heightened by the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, officer in August, and the choking death in July of black man by an officer in Staten Island, New York.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Rice’s family, has accused Loehmann of negligence in the boy’s death. He has also accused Cleveland, Loehmann and his patrol partner of negligence in the moments leading up to the shooting and the officers’ failure to promptly provide medical attention as Rice lay bleeding on the ground.

The family also alleges in its complaint, revised in January, that the city’s emergency call dispatchers didn’t tell responding officers the caller had said the person in the park was likely a child and the gun was “probably fake.”

The Rice estate is seeking at least $75,000 in damages. The initial complaint was filed in December.

Sheriff’s Probe

Cleveland’s shifting of the blame to Rice was contained in a portion of the city’s response in which it’s required to state all possible defenses to the claims against it or risk losing the right to make those arguments later in the case.

An investigation into the shooting is being conducted by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, according to the city’s filing.

“The City of Cleveland is cooperating and will continue to fully cooperate,” it said. “The circumstances of this incident will not be known until the completion of this investigation.”

Two days after Rice was killed, Darren Wilson, the white officer who killed Brown, was cleared by a St. Louis County grand jury, touching off riots and looting there and protests across the U.S. Results of a U.S. Justice Department probe into the the Ferguson Police Department are pending.

Daniel Pantaleo, the white New York City officer whose choke-hold on Eric Garner led to his death, was cleared by a grand jury on Staten Island on Dec. 3.

The case is Goodwin v. City of Cleveland, 14-cv-2670, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland).

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