‘One of us’: 12-year-old Cleveland boy shot by police remembered at vigil

Categories: The Guardian

Around 200 people attended memorial for Tamir Rice in Cudell Commons Park, waving signs denouncing police brutality and chanting No more murder!

Mark Guarino in Cleveland
Tuesday 25 November 2014 18.47 EST

Around 200 people attended the memorial in Cleveland’s Cudell Commons Park on Monday night, waving signs denouncing police brutality, and chanting “No more murder!”

They fell silent when Tamir’s older sister, Taji moved forward to speak. Dressed in a pink headband and a black jacket, she clutched a white plastic bag containing cash the family had collected to bury her brother, who died in a local hospital on Sunday.

“He was only 12, he wanted to play basketball with the NBA, he loved everybody and if he was still alive, he would say thank you and he would love you all,” she said, her voice faltering as she spoke.

Witnesses had reported a boy waving a gun in the park on Saturday afternoon; the 911 caller said the suspect’s gun was “probably a fake” – though police spokesmen have said the gun’s orange safety tag had been removed, and that the two officers who responded to the call weren’t told that it might be a replica.

Authorities said the officers told Tamir to raise his hands, and shot him when he pulled the pellet gun from his waistband.

“I don’t know why they did that,” said Taji Rice.

At Monday’s vigil, there were inevitable comparisons in the police response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Signs reading “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “Stop the Genocide” and “Non-Compliance Does Not Justify Murder,” might have been seen that same night in Ferguson.

But while Ferguson’s anger erupted into a spasm of violence, the mood in Cleveland was one of resignation.

“Black lives don’t matter as much,” said Yvonne Carter, 36. “[The police] are scared of us and it’s happening everywhere.”

Pete Hines, 51, said: “Who’s surprised with this? Nobody. And now one of our children is dead.”

A makeshift memorial formed at a picnic table in the park, where mourners left flowers, toy animals and handwritten messages.

Near the swing set where Tamir had been playing, Javier Montgomery, 42, shook his head. “Kids can’t play in their own park, their own block,” he said.

Tamir Rice died in a local hospital on Sunday morning. Both officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave.

Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said on Monday that surveillance footage of the shooting was “very clear.” The officer who shot Tamir was less than 10 feet from the boy when he opened fire.

Many at the vigil called angrily for charges to be laid against the officers, who have not been named.

“Tamir was one of us!” Jerome Ross, 63, said. “This kind of thing has been happening since even I was a kid.”

Around 53% of Cleveland’s population is black, as are about 61% of the city’s children.

But only about a third of the city’s police department, about 27%, is black. The disparity became a common talking point among people at the Monday rally.

Fueling the discontent are recent allegations of excessive force by police here, which is now the subject of a pending report by the US Justice Department which will assess the use of force by officer and the city’s policies.

In July Cleveland settled a federal lawsuit with the families of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after they were killed in 2012 following a 20-mile car chase involving 62 police cruisers. An investigation found that police fired 137 bullets into the car even though the couple did not have a gun. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. In March, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the killings were the result of a systematic failure by the city police department.

“Command failed. Communications failed. The system failed,” he said.

In another case in 2011, Edward Henderson suffered from a broken eye socket and a detached retina after a beating he received from police. The beating was captured on video and four officers were charged with felonious assault and obstruction of official business. Henderson received $600,000 in a civil suit settlement last year.

Also in 2011, police fatally shot Daniel Flicker, who was white, outside his home following an argument. His family is pursuing a civil lawsuit against the city.

On Monday, US Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a Democrat, released a statement urging US Attorney General Eric Holder to review the Tamir Rice shooting “and continue monitoring the police department.” “The City of Cleveland must ensure a thorough and transparent investigation of this tragic shooting … Tamir’s death is another painful reminder of the price of delaying needed reform,” she wrote.

Cleveland Police said they will release the name of the police officer who shot Rice Tuesday afternoon. A community meeting is scheduled at the Cudell Recreation Center at 6pm and will feature Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams taking questions and providing updates on the investigation.


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