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By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The lawyer representing the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African-American with a toy gun shot to death by a white Cleveland police officer, reacted angrily on Monday to city arguments that the boy was responsible for the shooting.

Rice was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann on Nov. 22 as the child played in a Cleveland park, roiling civil rights groups across the nation.

The family originally filed a wrongful death suit in December, then amended it in January. The city formally responded in a 40-page document filed with the U.S. District Court in the Northeastern District of Ohio on Friday.

In its papers, the city blames the boy for his death and puts the injuries, losses and damages “directly and proximately caused by the failure of [Rice] to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

“We’ve been in a holding pattern and all we get is these insults,” Walter Madison, the Rice family attorney, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

“That has to be the most incredulous comment I have ever heard,” said Madison. “The family is just completely infuriated. They are still picking up the pieces of their lives and they have been obliterated by such an insult” that blamed the death on the 12-year-old boy’s actions.

“The city is saying it wants to impose a new standard for 12-year-olds,” Madison said. “There are many things we don’t allow 12-year-olds to do. We don’t allow them to vote, we don’t allow them to drink, because they don’t have the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions.”

Cleveland also argues that the city does not have enough information to respond in full to the Rice family allegations because the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating Rice’s death.

Madison said he expected to meeting with city lawyers and the judge soon to work out the next steps in the suit.

The Rice case was one of a trio of police actions that reignited questions about policing and African-Americans.

The Cleveland shooting came just days before a grand jury decided not to charge a white police officer in the deadly shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Mo. The Cleveland shooting also happened before a Staten Island grand jury declined to charge a New York police officer in the death of Eric Garner, who died after a chokehold was administered during an arrest.

Both of those cases led to demonstrations and sometimes violent protests.

The Cleveland incident was caught on videotape and shows Rice playing in the park with a cellphone and a toy gun that uses pellets.

Police arrive, responding to a call to 911, and the boy is quickly shot.

In its suit, the Rice family alleges that Loehmann, Officer Frank Garmback, who is Loehmann’s partner, and 100 unidentified 911 operators, police officers and city employees violated the family’s rights in the shooting.

The family’s suit also describes details about the moments after the shooting when Tamir Rice’s sister, Tajai Rice, 14, was tackled and restrained as she ran toward her brother screaming “my baby brother, they killed my baby brother.”

The Rice shooting occurred after the federal Department of Justice completed its investigation into the Cleveland Police Department.

In its report issued Dec. 4, federal officials found that Cleveland police engaged in a pattern of using excessive force against suspects, including in the chase and shooting of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell in 2012.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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