The city of Cleveland responded to a lawsuit filed by the family of a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by police in November by asserting that the boy, Tamir Rice, caused his own death.
The city also claimed to have had no knowledge that the cop who shot Rice, 26-year-old Timothy Loehmann, had resigned from a previous police job because of poor performance and had failed a cognitive exam for a job as a sheriff’s deputy, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reports.
Rice was shot on Nov. 22 in a Cleveland park. Police encountered him after witnesses called 911 to claim that a man was wielding a gun. Though the callers told 911 dispatchers that they did not believe Rice’s gun was “real,” that piece of information was not transmitted to the responding officers.
Rice was carrying a pellet gun.
Video from the shooting showed a Cleveland police cruiser driving up to Rice, with officer Loehmann jumping out of the car and shooting him almost immediately.
Despite Rice’s age, Loehmann said he believed the boy was 20 years old.
The case has sparked outrage amid several other cases of police-related deaths involving white officers and minority suspects. Rice’s family hired Florida civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
In its response to a lawsuit filed by Rice’s family in December, the city claims that Rice was ultimately responsible for his own death.
“Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of Plaintiffs’ decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury,” the city claims as one of its 20 defenses against the suit.
“The intervening acts, including negligence, of persons other than this Defendant directly and proximately caused Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages,” the response continues.
The city also contends that the damage done to Rice and his family “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant.” (RELATED: Police Officer Who Shot 12-Year-Old Ohio Boy Had ‘Dismal’ Handgun Performance Rating)
The city also denies having any knowledge about Loehmann’s poor work history and his failure to get police jobs as smaller departments. Loehmann was hired by Cleveland police last March.
But before that, he resigned from the Independence, Ohio police department after he received a “dismal” job performance rating in Nov. 2012. In Sept. 2013, he also failed the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department’s cognitive written exam, scoring 46 percent out of the 70 percent needed to pass. (RELATED: Video Shows Police Delayed Aid To Shot 12-Year-Old, Tackled His 14-Year-Old Sister)
“Defendant is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations that Defendant Loehmann applied to work in the Aron, Euclid and Parma Heights police department; that these aforementioned police departments declined to hire Defendant Loehmann; that Defendant Loehmann failed the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office written examination,” the city responded.
According to previous reports from Northeast Ohio Media Group, Loehmann’s prior work history did not come up in background checks.