Adding ‘insult to homicide’: Cleveland asks Tamir Rice’s family to pay $500 ambulance bill

Tamir Rice. © Family Photo via Richardson & Kucharski co. LPA
The family of an African-American boy killed by police now has an insult to add to their injury: the city is billing them for their son’s ambulance ride. Tamir Rice was shot in a playground by cops who mistook his toy gun for a real one.

Rice was only 12 years old when he was shot and killed by Cleveland, Ohio police officers, in November 2014. Officers responded to a call that he was pointing a gun at people at a playground outside a recreation center, and opened fire within seconds of arriving on the scene. The investigation showed they were never told the crucial details: that Rice was a child, and that the gun was probably a toy.

Officers were accused of not immediately providing aid to Rice. He died in a hospital a day later.

On Wednesday, nearly 15 months after the boy’s death, the city filed a claim against Rice’s family in Cuyahoga County Probate Court. The claim says that that Tamir’s estate is overdue on a $500 payment for the boy’s “last dying expense.”  The invoice requests $450 for “ambulance advance life support” and $50 for mileage.

The Rice family’s lawyer Subodh Chandra said that the family was “disturbed” by the city’s decision.

“The callousness, insensitivity, and poor judgment required for the city to send a bill after its own police officers killed 12-year-old Tamir is breathtaking,” he said. “This adds insult to homicide. Ms. Rice considers this harassment."

Even the police union that fought to protect the officers involved in the shooting spoke out against the bill.

"Subodh Chandra and I have never agreed on anything until now," police union President Steve Loomis told WJW. "It is unconscionable that the city of Cleveland would send that bill to the Rice family. Truly disappointing, but not surprising.”

A grand jury decided in December 2015 not to indict the officers involved in Rice’s death, prompting cries of outrage at the perceived systemic injustice in Cleveland’s law enforcement. In a press conference announcing the decision, Cuyahoga County prosecutors argued that the toy gun was indistinguishable from a real one.

READ MORE: ‘I am Tamir’: Streets, Brooklyn Bridge shut down in NYC after shooter of 12yo Rice walks free

Rice’s death was part of a series of incidents that prompted protests over perceived problems in the interaction between law enforcement and unarmed African-American men. Though the officers who shot Rice were not indicted, activists have called for a federal investigation into the boy’s death.