CLEVELAND – First, a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice as he played with a toy pellet gun in a public park.
Then the city said the boy’s death was his own fault.
And now Cleveland has charged the Rice family for his final ambulance ride.
That latest development, coming on Wednesday nearly 15 months after Tamir’s death, stirred up fresh outrage — not just from his family, but from the Cleveland police union that’s fought them tooth and nail to clear the officers involved in the shooting.
“Subodh Chandra and I have never agreed on anything until now,” police union President Steve Loomis told CNN affiliate WJW, referring to the Rice family’s lawyer. “It is unconscionable that the city of Cleveland would send that bill to the Rice family.
“Truly disappointing, but not at all surprising.”
‘Adds insult to homicide’
Predictably, Chandra had his own harsh words.
“The callousness, insensitivity and poor judgment required for the city to send a bill … is breathtaking,” Chandra said. “This adds insult to homicide.”
He said Samaria Rice feels the $500 claim and invoice for her son’s ambulance ride amount to harassment.
In December, a grand jury declined to indict the two responding police officers in the case. A federal review of the case is ongoing, and the Rice family is still pressing its case, including with a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Cleveland.
The city, in its 41-page response to that suit, claimed Tamir died because he failed “to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
On Wednesday, it had little to say about the ambulance charge.
“This is ongoing litigation, and we do not comment on ongoing litigation,” city spokesman Dan Williams said.
Believing boy had real gun, police shoot him in seconds
It all goes back to November 22, 2014, when Tamir was in a park yards from his Cleveland home. Surveillance video showed him walking back and forth — all alone, it seemed — occasionally pointing his pellet gun.
One man noticed him and phoned 911. “The guy keeps pulling it in and out,” the caller said of the toy gun. “It’s probably fake. But you know what, he’s scaring the s**t out of people.”
The part about the gun probably not being real never filtered down to police.
Instead, a police car rapidly pulled up on snow-covered grass near a gazebo in the park, two officers got out, and one of them — fearing, according to his defenders, the boy would fire — shot Tamir within two seconds. Police claimed Timothy Loehmann, an officer in training, “shouted verbal commands” from inside the car, but witnesses did not back up that statement, according to a Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department report.
Tamir’s family soon got word, rushing to the scene.
“As I was trying to get through to my son, the police told me to calm down or they would put me in the back of a police car,” Samaria Rice recalled to reporters.
She complied, but Tamir’s 14-year-old sister did end up handcuffed and in the back of a patrol car after police officers “tackled” her, her mother and a family lawyer said.
Tamir, meanwhile, was put in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.
He died the next day.