Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old black boy who was shot and killed by a white Cleveland police officer because he was playing with a toy gun. According to a court filing, the city of Cleveland has agreed to pay Rice’s family $6 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, but the officers responsible for his killing will likely come out unscathed.
Last December, a grand jury decided not to indict officer Timothy Loehmann in the case, which a prosecutor called a “perfect storm of human error.” The settlement reached today (April 20) allows the city to avoid a federal civil rights suit brought by the family. The US Department of Justice is still reviewing the case to see if any civil rights were violated, although these reviews seldom result in criminal charges.
“Although historic in financial terms, no amount of money can adequately compensate for the loss of a life,” the family’s lawyers said. “In a situation such as this, there is no such thing as closure or justice. Nothing will bring Tamir back.” The city will not admit wrongdoing in the case.
The Rice case, which sparked protests and nation-wide outrage, is part of a string of recent police killings in which cities chose to pay the victim’s family millions of dollars instead of facing the scrutiny of a civil rights trial. Last year, Baltimore paid $6.4 million to the family of Freddy Gray, who died while in police custody, and New York settled for $5.9 million with the family of Eric Garner, who died as a result of an officer holding him in a chokehold.
Rice was killed while playing with a pellet gun outside a playground in November 2014. Surveillance footage shows officer Loehmann and his partner Frank Garmback pulling up to the scene, and Loehmann immediately opening fire. The 911 caller who notified the police of Rice said that the gun he was holding was likely a toy, but that information was not passed on to the officers.
(relevant video begins at 7:00)