A federal judge ruled Monday that a lawsuit against the two Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice will be suspended for 60 days.
Chief U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. ruled that civil procedings pertaining to the lawsuit brought by the Rice family against police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback will be put on hold until July 31, at which point the court can decide to maintain the delay or lift it.
But Oliver also ruled that Loehmann and Garmback must file a response to the suit by June 22.
Lawyers for Loehmann and Garmback requested in April that the lawsuit be stayed until the criminal investigation comes to a close in order to protect the officers' Fifth Amendment rights.
The defendants wish to "answer the complaint and testify at their civil deposition without fear that their answers may be used against them in a separate criminal proceeding, where the stakes are significantly higher and their liberty is directly at risk," the motion said.
On November 22, 2014, Rice was shot by Loehmann just seconds after the two officers arrived at a recreation center where the child was playing with a pellet gun. He died in the hospital the next day.
In December, the Rice family filed a lawsuit against the officers and the City of Cleveland, and in January, filed a longer suit claiming excessive force, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.
The Rice family had asked in early April that the lawsuit not be suspended. "A stay would delay justice and ignore the greater civil rights issue that has dominated American interest and legislative agendas throughout the United States," a response filed by their lawyers said.
Walter Madison, an attorney for the Rice family, told NBC News Monday that he was encouraged by the judge's decision because it means the civil suit is moving forward. “I think that it’s a tremendous step towards justice for the family,” Madison said. “Essentially up until this point, nothing had happened.”
Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday evening.
It is unclear when the months-long investigation, which was taken over in January by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office, will be completed and whether the findings will be made public.
Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney said in mid-May that a majority of the investigation was complete. Once the sheriff's department investigation concludes, the prosecutor will review it and request additional probing, if necessary, before presenting the evidence to a grand jury, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.