CLEVELAND — The head of a Cleveland police union said the family of a 12-year-old black boy shot dead by a white police officer while playing with a pellet gun should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the dangers of handling real and replica firearms, while an attorney representing the boy’s family blasted the comments.
“Something positive must come from this tragic loss,” said Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. “That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm,” he said.
The statement came hours after the city announced a settlement Monday in a lawsuit over the death of Tamir Rice.
An order filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland said the city will pay out $3 million this year and $3 million the next. There was no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement.
“We have maintained from the onset this has been an absolute tragedy for the Rice family as well as our involved officers and their families,” Loomis said.
Family attorney Subodh Chandra sharply criticized Loomis’ response.
“Anyone has ever wondered whether ‘tone deafness’ is a real thing need look no further than the police union leadership,” Chandra said in a statement.
He said Loomis’ comments managed to “blame the victim, equate the loss of life of a 12-year-old child with officers facing public scrutiny for killing that child and demand money from the victim’s family.”
The wrongful death suit filed by Rice’s family and estate against the city and officers and dispatchers who were involved alleged police acted recklessly when they confronted the boy outside a recreation center on Nov. 22, 2014.
Video of the encounter shows a cruiser skidding to a stop and rookie patrolman Timothy Loehmann firing within two seconds of opening the car door. Tamir wasn’t given first aid until about four minutes later, when an FBI agent trained as a paramedic arrived. The boy died the next day.
In the Rice family lawsuit, Samaria Rice had alleged that police failed to immediately provide first aid for her son and caused intentional infliction of emotional distress in how they treated her and her daughter after the shooting.
The officers had asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. Loehmann’s attorney has said he bears a heavy burden and must live with what happened.
Tamir’s estate has been assigned $5.5 million of the settlement. A Cuyahoga County probate judge will decide how the amount will be divided. Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, will receive $250,000. Claims against Tamir’s estate account for the remaining $250,000. Tamir’s father, Leonard Warner, was dismissed in February as a party to the lawsuit.
Chandra said the Rice family remains in mourning over Tamir’s death.