Hours after the city of Cleveland revealed it will pay $6 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by relatives of slain 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the labor group that represents the police officers who killed Rice sought to remind the world that the boy brought this on himself.
“We can only hope the Rice family and their attorneys will use a portion of this settlement to help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms,” Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association (CPPA) President Stephen Loomis said in a statement.
A Cleveland cop named Timothy Loehmann shot and killed Rice less than 2 seconds after he and his partner arrived at the scene in late November of 2014. The pair were responding to a 911 call about a young black man who seemed to have a toy gun. Emergency dispatchers did not relay the caller’s report that the gun looked like a toy. Loehmann had previously served as a cop in Independence, Ohio, where superiors wrote that he showed “dismal” performance in firearms training and signs of being mentally unsound.
“Something positive must come from this tragic loss,” Loomis’ statement continues. “That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.”
The letter makes no mention of potential positive outcomes that might involve reforming the training or on-the-job conduct standards of the Cleveland Police Department, which has a track record of abuses long and broad enough that the Department of Justice took a special oversight hand with local police in late 2014.
Naturally, Loehmann’s union had his back in the case, despite a state judge finding that there was probable cause to charge both officers with negligent homicide and other counts. The prosecutor with jurisdiction also sided with Loehmann, dragging out an extensive and warped grand jury process and even smearing Rice’s family as money-hungry before ultimately deciding not to charge the officer who killed a child in an instant. (Voters fired Cuyahoga County District Attorney Tim McGinty in March.)
It’s no surprise that both labor group and fellow law enforcer would seek to shield Loehmann from the threat of prison. But today’s remarks from Loomis go further. The union is publicly reminding the Rices that the city’s police force believes their child was complicit in his own death, on the same day that the city tacitly acknowledges that death was $6 million worth of wrong.
Loomis makes no mention of another nearby police killing of an unarmed black male who had a toy gun in his hands. A couple hundred miles southwest in Beavercreek, Ohio, police shot and killed John Crawford III while he strolled the aisles of a local store holding an airgun he had just picked up from the toy section. Neither the officers nor the white 911 caller who sicced police on Crawford will face charges in that case either.