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The mother of a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer who mistook his BB gun for a real weapon said Monday that her son “didn’t even have a chance” and would have cooperated if the authorities had asked him.
Tamir Rice was shot just moments after police arrived at the park near his house after a 911 caller informed authorities that the boy had a gun but cautioned it could be a fake. That information wasn’t transmitted to responding police, who said they yelled at Rice to put his “hands up” when they encountered him.
“If they had said something he would have cooperated with them,” his mother, Samaria Rice, told NBC News. “By them scaring him like that, he didn’t even have a chance. They didn’t even give him a chance to cooperate.”
Rice said Tamir had just left home with his older sister, 14, to go play when the shooting occurred. Tamir had been playing with a friend’s BB gun, which didn’t bear the standard orange-colored mark identifying it as a toy.
Watching surveillance video of the incident unfold, Rice said: “It took my breath away. My heart almost stopped because I just couldn’t believe what I was looking at. They basically scared him.”
Samaria Rice, who has three other children, said she was in shock following the shooting and was angry “because Cleveland police have failed to come knock on my door and tell me what happened to my son. Nobody ever showed up, ever.”
When she arrived at the park, Rice said she first "noticed the police were just standing around and they weren't doing anything." Then, she realized her daughter was in the back of a police car. "She told me that the police tackled her and put her in handcuffs," Rice said.
The Cleveland police department didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on Rice’s allegations.
Tamir died in the hospital the next day. His mother described him as a helper and talented athlete who “always had a smile. Nothing could ever break his smile.” She said justice would mean convictions for both officers who responded to the call and that police needed to be trained how to properly respond to such situations.
The family has filed a civil suit against Officers Loehmann, Garmback and the city of Cleveland. One of their lawyers, Benjamin Crump, appealed for the officer who shot Tamir, Timothy Loehmann, to be charged without a grand jury trial.
Crump said surveillance video showing Loehmann and Frank Garmback arriving at the park and shooting Tamir is "enough probable cause to indict the police officer now."
Cleveland Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said in November that a grand jury would hear the case because the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office, which is overseeing the case, has a policy of presenting all fatal police shootings to a grand jury.
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— Elisha Fieldstadt and Miranda Leitsinger