Cleveland’s police union released a statement on Monday afternoon expressing the hope that a settlement for the fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice would go towards educating youth on the dangers of carrying real or fake guns.
The city announced a $6 million settlement early Monday over the death of Rice, who was killed by Timothy Loehmann, a white police officer, on Nov. 22, 2014 while holding a plastic airsoft gun that had its orange safety tip removed.
“We can only hope the Rice family and their attorneys will use a portion of this settlement to help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms,” the statement read. “Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.”
The Rice family had alleged in its wrongful death lawsuit that the police officers and dispatchers were reckless in their confrontation with Tamir. Surveillance footage of the incident showed Loehmann firing twice at Tamir withing seconds of opening the door of his police cruiser.
Officers were summoned to the scene after a 911 call reported “a guy” pointing a “probably fake” pistol outside a community recreation center in Cleveland, according to Cleveland.com. The caller repeated twice that the pistol was probably “fake,” though that information was not relayed to officers on the scene.
In a report on the shooting death, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty noted that Tamir’s replica gun “was functionally identical to a real firearm,” and “nearly indistinguishable” from an authentic .45 Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol.
In a press conference in December, McGinty appeared to place part of the blame on Tamir himself, noting that Tamir “looked much older” and “had been warned” that the pellet gun he was holding “might get him into trouble” that day.
A grand jury declined last year to indict Loehmann and the other officer involved — a decision that renewed national debate about law enforcement accountability and police officers’ use of lethal force.
The Cleveland police union’s statement, which was addressed merely to “Media,” noted Rice’s death as a tragedy for the Rice family, “as well as our involved Officers and their families.”
The statement prompted swift online backlash, with users taking to Twitter to berate the union for insinuating that the fatal shooting was Rice’s own fault for carrying a toy gun:
Shorter Cleveland Police Union: “I hope you use this settlement from us shooting your son dead to teach kids how to not get shot dead.”
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) April 25, 2016
Piers Morgan: “Watch this fire Beyoncé take, I’m going to be most tone deaf internet person today.”
Cleveland Police Union: “Not so fast…”
— Sarah Kogod (@SarahKogod) April 25, 2016
Maybe the Cleveland Police Union could spend some of their own money to teach cops not to shoot innocent little kids playing in a park.
— Lisa (@notmuchelse) April 25, 2016
Here’s the full statement: