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Cleveland leaders apologize over blaming boy for own death

March 2, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland’s mayor apologized on Monday after the city’s lawyers suggested in court documents that a 12-year-old boy who had a pellet gun when he was shot by police died as a result of his own actions.

Mayor Frank Jackson said the city’s response to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Tamir Rice’s family was poorly worded and offensive.

“We used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” the mayor said.

The court documents filed late last week by the city said Tamir’s injuries and the subsequent complaints for damages stemmed from his actions and failure “to exercise due care to avoid injury.” It similarly said the “injuries, losses and damages” cited for his relatives in the complaint “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts,” not by the city.

Jackson said that he’s talked with representatives of Tamir’s family, and that the city plans to alter the wording in the documents within the next three weeks.

The city said in response to the federal lawsuit that it didn’t violate Tamir’s federal rights and that it is entitled to certain legal immunities.

Tamir was shot in the abdomen by an officer responding to a call about someone with a firearm near a recreation center on Nov. 22. The officer fired within two seconds of the police car stopping nearby, and the confrontation was captured on surveillance video. Tamir had been carrying what turned out to be an airsoft-type gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets.

The Cuyahoga County sheriff’s department is investigating the shooting. A prosecutor has promised that a grand jury will consider whether the case merits criminal charges.

Update hourly