Tamir Rice was only 12 years old when police officer Loehmann shot him dead. Prior to the shooting, Rice had been playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. Officer Loehmann and his partner responded to a radio run of a person displaying a gun in the park. Within two seconds after arriving at the park, Officer Loehmann had exited his patrol car and fired the fatal shot
In my earlier post entitled What a Difference a Few Seconds Could Have Made I argued that had officer Loehmann taken a few seconds to properly assess the situation, Tamir would probably still be alive. I also stated that I did not believe that the City of Cleveland could avoid liability or compensation in the family’s wrongful death action.
After a month of intense negotiations, the City of Cleveland settled the Rice’s family federal wrongful death lawsuit. The City will pay the family $ 6 million in two equal installments. In settling the case, the City made no admission of any wrong doing. The settlement limits the City’s overall liability for the death of Tamir and forecloses the possibility of a Federal Civil Rights violation lawsuit. Most legal experts believe that the settlement will have little impact on the debate over police tactics in the shooting of Black youths. Community and civil rights advocates continue to argue for reform in the tactics police use when deal with young Black men. It is not likely that the settlement is going to influence the reform debate.
Some commentators and criminal civil rights attorneys believe that the $6 million settlement represents the cheaper value of a Black youth’s life. Basically, they argue that the settlement amount should have been substantially higher. Yet, the parties to the litigation were represented by highly competent counsel. It is safe to assume, that the settlement was agreed to only after the parties had run their negotiations positions. Importantly, a settlement is nothing more than an agreement of the parties to end the case on certain terms. Having not been privy to the parties’ negotiations, I cannot intelligently pass judgment on the appropriateness of the amount of the settlement. An argument could be made that the settlement was higher than usual for the death of a child because the victim as Black and the shooting generated so much racial tension.