It’s a new low for the city of Cleveland, says the family of the late Tamir Rice.
Just months after a grand jury declined to indict two white police officers for fatally shooting the black 12-year-old as he wielded a toy gun in a public park, claiming it was the boy’s own fault, Cleveland is trying to force his estate to pay $500 for the ambulance ride and medical services he received after being shot.
“The callousness, insensitivity and poor judgment required for the city to send a bill ... is breathtaking," said Subodh Chandra, the Rice family’s attorney, in a statement. "This adds insult to homicide," he said.
Chandra said Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, feels the city is taunting the family, reports CNN. They city filed a creditor's claim for the $500 Wednesday in probate court, though Mayor Frank Jackson later apologized, saying the claim was routine, but should have been flagged and not allowed to be filed.
But news of the move had already circulated far and wide, even dismaying the president of the Cleveland police union, which has vehemently defended the police in this shooting case.
"Subodh Chandra and I have never agreed on anything until now," union president Steve Loomis told Fox News. "It is unconscionable that the city of Cleveland would send that bill to the Rice family. Truly disappointing but unfortunately not surprising,” he said.
The Cleveland bill for Tamir's family comes as several major police departments – including those in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New Orleans – are undertaking reforms as part of settlements with the US Department of Justice. It also comes the day after Ferguson, Mo. city council pushed back on a similar federal consent decree to reform its police force.
And another case of pushback emerged in Chicago this week. A white police officer – who fatally shot a black 19-year-old, Quintonio LeGrier, and an unarmed bystander in December – is suing the teen’s estate for $10 million for "permanent" emotional distress and personal injuries. Mr. LeGrier's estate had already filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the city.
While it is common for a counterclaim to be filed in response to a civil lawsuit, it is rare for a police officer to sue the person he killed, acknowledges the officer’s own lawyer, Joel A. Brodsky.
But officer Robert Rialmo is entitled to do so, according to Mr. Brodsky.
“There is no question that he suffered very extreme emotional trauma and stress as a result of what Quintonio LeGrier did,” Brodsky told The New York Times. Mr. Rialmo claims that LeGrier threatened him with a baseball bat; the neighbor whom Rialmo also shot in the kerfuffle, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, was an innocent bystander.
The shooting – one of many that has incited outrage and pitted the Chicago Police Department against the city’s black residents – is under investigation. So is the entire police department, which is undergoing a long-term, civil rights investigation by the US Justice Department.
“It’s a new low for the Chicago Police Department,” Basileios J. Foutris, a lawyer for Mr. LeGrier’s estate, told the Times. “First you shoot them, then you sue them. It’s outrageous. I can’t believe that this police officer has the temerity to turn around and sue the estate of the person who he killed,” he said.