City of Cleveland Sues Tamir Rice’s Family for Dying Boy’s $500 Ambulance Ride
UPDATE: The New York Times reports Cleveland officials have rescinded their request for $500, claiming the bill had been generated automatically.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: The city of Cleveland, Ohio has sparked widespread outrage after billing the family of Tamir Rice, the unarmed 12-year-old shot and mortally wounded by police in November 2014, for the ambulance ride that transported him to the hospital where he died.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports assistant law director Carl Meyers filed a claim in Cuyahoga County Probate Court Wednesday notifying Rice’s estate that $500 is “past due and owing for emergency medical services rendered as the decedent’s last dying expense.” The charges include $450 “ambulance advance life support” that did not save the child’s life and $10 per mile for the ride to MetroHealth Medical Center, where Rice died on November 23, 2014. The lawsuit states that Rice’s family has until March 11 to pay the bill.
The suit comes six weeks after a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to charge two Cleveland police officers—Timothy Loehmann, who fatally shot Rice, and Frank Garmback. The officers were called to a park near the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s west side on November 22 in response to a report of a “man” pointing a gun at people. The 911 caller told the dispatcher he saw “a guy with a pistol” on the swing set pulling a weapon from his pants and “scaring the shit out of everyone,” but added that “the gun was probably fake.” Rice’s gun was indeed a toy, albeit a realistic looking replica pistol with the bright orange barrel tip removed.
Rice’s family sued the city, arguing in part that officers Loehmann and Garmback were unconcerned whether the boy lived or died as they refused to give him potentially life-saving emergency first aid for four minutes until an FBI agent arrived on the scene. Officers also brutalized Rice’s 14-year-old sister and handcuffed her while her brother lay dying.
Subodh Chandra, one of Rice’s family attorneys, blasted city officials for adding “insult to homicide.”
“That the city would submit a bill and call itself a creditor after having had its own police officers slay 12-year-old Tamir displays a new pinnacle of callousness and insensitivity,” Chandra told Cleveland Scene. “The kind of poor judgment that it takes to do such a thing is nothing short of breathtaking. Who on earth would think this was a good idea and file this on behalf of the city? This adds insult to homicide. The mayor and law director should apologize to the Rice family and withdraw this filing immediately.”
Earl Ward, another lawyer for Rice’s family, also condemned the lawsuit.
“I was shocked when I saw that,” Ward told the New York Daily News. “It was cold and callous and disrespectful of a family who is still grieving, especially on the heels of the grand jury decision. It’s a $500 bill and the city is responsible for his death so I don’t see how they could justify that.”