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The city of Cleveland has agreed to pay $6 million to the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot and killed by police officer Timothy Loehmann in 2014. Rice was in a park playing with a toy gun when he was shot.
It is the latest in a series of million-dollar settlements following deadly police shootings, and the latest chapter in Cleveland's own history of police violence and lawsuits.
Civil Settlement Over Criminal Charges
Rice was by himself in a park when someone dialed 911 and reported a male, "probably a juvenile," with a weapon, "probably fake." The 911 operator, however, just told responding officers of a report of a male with a weapon. Surveillance footage caught a police cruiser speeding into the park, stopping feet away from Rice, and officer Loehmann stepping out of the car and quickly shooting Rice.
Although a judge found probable cause to charge Loehmann with homicide, a grand jury failed to indict him. Rice's family then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Cleveland. Under the terms of the current settlement, the city admits no wrongdoing in Rice's death and is expected pay the settlement in two payments over the next two years. (That is unless the city tries to avoid payment like it has in other police misconduct cases.)
City in Crisis
Cleveland's police force had already been in the national spotlight, and not for good reasons. The city paid out some $10 million to settle police misconduct lawsuits from 2004 to 2014, and the police force has been operating under a Department of Justice consent decree after a DOJ investigation found the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) engaged "in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution."
And the city had not handled Rice's case well, either. As noted by The New York Times:
Tensions escalated last year when Cleveland filed a response to the lawsuit that seemed to blame Tamir for his death, prompting an apology from Mr. Jackson and a revised filing. Then, in February, Cleveland moved to sue the Rice family for $500 to cover Tamir's emergency medical treatment, but quickly reversed course after a public backlash.
Perhaps Cleveland can begin to repair its image by overhauling its police practices and actually paying the settlement.