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article imageCleveland to pay $6 mn to family of black boy shot dead by police

By Olivia Hampton (AFP)     Apr 25, 2016 in World

The US city of Cleveland has reached a $6 million settlement with the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American fatally shot by police while holding a toy gun.

Under the terms of the settlement, Cleveland does not admit any wrongdoing, according to details of the accord announced Monday by a US District Court in Ohio.

The deal, which still requires the approval of a probate court, shields the city from a potential federal civil rights trial that would have drawn renewed scrutiny of its troubled police force.

Rice's November 2014 death at the hands of a white officer was one of a series of high-profile incidents involving police violence against African Americans that fueled protests across the country.

Several of these cases have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements between cities and the families of victims.

Surveillance video showed Rice was fatally shot within seconds of a patrol car arriving on the scene as he began to pull a toy pellet gun out of his waistband. The boy died hours later in hospital.

The Rice family's lawyers said "no amount of money can adequately compensate" the relatives for their loss.

"In a situation such as this, there is no such thing as closure or justice. Nothing will bring Tamir back," they added in a statement.

"His unnecessary and premature death leaves a gaping hole for those who knew and loved him that can never be filled."

The lawyers also denounced "the problem of police violence, especially in communities of color," calling it "a crisis plaguing our nation."

Last year, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the police officers involved in the shooting, rookie patrolman Timothy Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback.

At the time, then Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said the jury found the shooting was the result of a "perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunication by all involved that day," but not a criminal act.

The officers were responding to a 911 call reporting a person carrying a "probably fake" gun.

"There's a guy in there with a pistol. It's probably fake, but he's pointing it at everybody," the caller said. "I don't know if it's real or not."

In its complaint, Rice's family accused the city of negligence, saying dispatchers should have told officers about the caller's description of the gun likely being a toy.

The family also said the police officers were too aggressive as they "rushed" to the scene, pulling their patrol car right up next to the boy, and fired too quickly on Rice, whom they failed to provide with medical care or assistance after shooting him.

The family said the city had a pattern of hiring police officers who are "unfit" for duty, and failed to vet or supervise them properly.

- Deals to avoid shame -

Under the terms of the settlement, Cleveland will pay $3 million this year and $3 million in 2017.

Protesters in Cleveland  Ohio hold signs as they sing and chant while blocking roads on November 25 ...
Protesters in Cleveland, Ohio hold signs as they sing and chant while blocking roads on November 25, 2014, calling for action following the shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, who was shot by Cleveland police
Jordan Gonzalez, AFP/File

It is the latest in a string of seven-figure payouts by cities to avoid wrongful death lawsuits, which are brought by the estates of those killed against authorities liable for the death.

Earlier this month, the Chicago City Council agreed to pay nearly $6.5 million to settle two separate cases of alleged police misconduct.

One of the cases, caught on shocking video, involved a mentally ill man who was repeatedly struck with a Taser gun. The other was over the death of an asthmatic man following a police chase on foot.

Baltimore agreed in September to pay a $6.4 million settlement with the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in custody sparked riots and looting in the gritty city located near the US capital Washington.

The Baltimore police union had denounced the large payout as "obscene."

Last year, New York reached a $5.9 million settlement with the family of Eric Garner, whose final words -- "I can't breathe" -- became a national rallying cry in widespread protests.

Garner was unarmed and was approached by police over claims he was illegally selling untaxed cigarettes in July 2014. One of the officers placed him in a chokehold, cited by the medical examiner as a cause of death.

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