Cleveland's mayor has apologized to the family of Tamir Rice on behalf of the city, after the family received a $500 ambulance bill for 12-year-old Tamir, who was killed by police in November of 2014.
The city is withdrawing the bill and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the city never intended to bill the Rice family for the ambulance. Mr. Jackson said the city turned over the bill to the estate's executor out of legal obligation.
"Again, apologizing to the Rice family if in fact this has added to any grief or pain that they may have," Mr. Jackson said at news conference on Thursday.
Prior to the apology, it appeared that fifteen months after Tamir was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer, the city has filed a claim against his estate for the cost of his ambulance ride to the hospital.
The creditor’s claim, filed in Cuyahoga County Probate Court on Wednesday, states that Tamir’s estate is overdue on a $500 payment for “emergency medical services rendered as the decedent’s last dying expense.”
The attached invoice notes requests $450 for “ambulance advance life support” and $50 for mileage.
Tamir was fatally shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann at an outdoor recreation center on Nov. 22, 2014. Loehmann and his partner, Officer Frank Garmback, were responding to a call about a man with a gun. They pulled up in front of Tamir seconds before Loehmann stepped out of the police car and opened fire.
The officers said Tamir appeared to be reaching into his waistband for a gun in the moments leading up to his being shot. In fact, the weapon was a toy.
“The Rice family is disturbed by the city’s behavior,” Subodh Chandra, a lawyer for the family, wrote in an email to The Washington Post about the creditor’s claim. “The callousness, insensitivity, and poor judgment required for the city to send a bill — its own police officers having slain 12-year-old Tamir — is breathtaking.”
He said the act “added insult to homicide.”
Jonathan Abady, the family’s lead counsel on a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, said in a phone interview with The Post that the claim is “mystifying," raising questions that the bill was sent by mistake.
“This is obviously a deliberate, considered action by the city of Cleveland; it required a formal court filing,” he said.
A grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers last December prompted protesters to call for a federal investigation into the shooting and for the resignation of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty.
In his announcement, Mr. McGinty said enhanced surveillance video made it “undisputably clear” that Tamir was reaching for something “indistinguishable” from a real gun.
The case fueled ongoing controversy about police shootings and racial profiling: Tamir died days before unrest erupted in response to the non-indictment of officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York, two unarmed African American men.
Tamir’s family alleges in the suit that Officers Loehmann and Garmback did not attempt to resuscitate or administer first aid to the boy after he was wounded. Instead, the suit claims, they tackled and handcuffed Tamir’s distraught 14-year-old sister and placed her in the back of the police cruiser.
Tamir died from his injuries in the hospital the next day.
The police officers maintained in signed statements that Tamir appeared to be much older than his age. Mr. McGinty was criticized for releasing these statements and other pieces of evidence to the press, which family members viewed the move as a show of support for the officers.
“Prosecutor McGinty deliberately sabotaged the case, never advocating for my son, and acting like the police officers’ defense attorney,” Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said in a statement following the grand jury decision.
The city’s creditor’s claim had asked the family to pay the $500 ambulance fee by March 11.
Additional reporting by the Washington PostReuse content