The city of Cleveland wanted the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by police 15 months ago, to pay for his ambulance ride, though the mayor now says it was all a mistake.
According to a creditor's claim filed Wednesday in Cuyahoga County Probate Court, the city was asking to be reimbursed $500 "for emergency medical services rendered as the decedent's last dying expense." An itemized bill from Cleveland EMS includes $450 for "ambulance advance life support" and $50 for mileage, according to an invoice filed with the claim.
"The callousness, insensitivity, and poor judgment required for the city to send a bill — its own police officers having slain 12-year-old Tamir — is breathtaking," Subodh Chandra, an attorney for the family, said in a statement to NBC's WKYC-TV affiliate. "This adds insult to homicide."
The family, Chandra added, "considers this a form of harassment."
In a news conference on Thursday, Mayor Frank Jackson apologized for the billing, saying that supervisors should have been alerted and the claim never should have been filed.
"It was a mistake in terms of us flagging it, but not a mistake in terms of the legal process," Jackson said.
On Nov. 22, 2014, Tamir was killed outside a recreation center by police who were responding to a report of a person with a gun. The boy, who was holding a toy gun, was shot within seconds of officers arriving at the scene.
In December, a grand jury declined to indict the officers involved in Tamir's death after Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty recommended they not be charged.
"It is likely that Tamir, whose size made him look much older and who had been warned his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day, either intended to hand it over to the officers or show them it wasn't a real gun," McGinty said. "But there was no way for the officers to know that, because they saw the events rapidly unfolding in front of them from a very different perspective."
It's not the first time the city of Cleveland and Tamir's family have clashed. A month after Tamir's death, the family filed a lawsuit alleging police used excessive force and failed to immediately provide first aid. The city's attorneys responded by saying their claims “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts” and that Tamir caused his own death "by the failure ... to exercise due care to avoid injury."