By Shaun King
March 2, 2015 – Last known photo of Tamir Rice before he was killed by Cleveland PD. Taken just a few weeks before his murder.
Do you see the picture above of Tamir Rice? Please take a good look at it. Look at his eyes, his smile, his boyish manner. It was the last-known photo taken of Tamir just weeks before he was shot and killed by police on November 22, 2014.
Hanging out and having fun in the park near his home in Cleveland, Ohio, Tamir Rice broke no laws that day. A 12-year-old sixth grader, Tamir, according to his teacher, was on the drum line of the band, loved sports, and enjoyed drawing. He was the baby boy of Samaria Rice, had never been in any trouble with the law or his school, and he loved life.
Shot and killed by an officer who was dismissed from his previous police force for lying, mishandling his gun, and weeping uncontrollably during his gun training, Tamir is now being blamed for his own death by the city of Cleveland and called a "menacing" man child by the Cleveland Police Union.
Can I keep it all the way real? Call me dumb, but I just didn’t see this coming. I know ripping apart victims of police violence is the modus operandi of the police, but seeing them do it with a child is despicably low, unethical, and unnecessary.
Speaking about Tamir last week, the man chosen by the Cleveland Police to represent them to the public, Steve Loomis, stooped to a new low:
“Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” he said. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body. Tamir looks to his left and sees a police car. He puts his gun in his waistband. Those people—99 percent of the time those people run away from us. We don’t want him running into the rec center. That could be a whole other set of really bad events. They’re trying to flush him into the field. Frank [the driver] is expecting the kid to run. The circumstances are so fluid and unique. …
“The guy with the gun is not running. He’s walking toward us. He’s squaring off with Cleveland police and he has a gun. Loehmann is thinking, ‘Oh my God, he’s pulling it out of his waistband.’”
While a real part of me feels dirty for even responding to Steve Loomis—it’s not as if he’s some random racist—he is the official representative for the police and what he thinks and says matters. Police voluntarily pay this man to be their mouthpiece.
First off, Tamir absolutely is the boy we see in the photos. We’re not going back in time and showing photos of Tamir as a toddler, but we’re going back to the month before he was killed. That’s a boy. He has fat cheeks. His skin is as smooth (and hairless) as a baby’s butt. His eyes have an innocence that most of us lost decades ago. They look like an episode of SpongeBob and a slam dunk from Lebron would take all of his troubles away.
We must refuse to allow Steve Loomis or anyone else to make Tamir into a man, a man-child, or a kid in a man’s body—he was none of these things. He was a sweet, fun, playful son, brother, student, and friend. In the four weeks after the above photo of him was taken, he didn’t morph into a goatee-having, tattoo-toting, musclebound man. He looked just like he did in this photo.
Secondly, Loomis called Tamir "menacing." Since when did anyone, including a man who is 5’7" become menacing? This is not even the average height for an American man, but is short. Both officers who pulled up on Tamir and Steve Loomis himself are several inches taller than this child. At quick glance, Loomis appears to be a huge man and the notion that he would find Tamir "menacing" is preposterous. Furthermore, the word "menace" has so many loaded connotations that just don’t apply to Tamir. He was a boy playing at a park. (Continued)
Thirdly, Loomis, in his statement, uses the words "those people" about Tamir and other people confronted by police. Clearly Loomis doesn’t see Tamir as a child, or even as a resident of Cleveland, but as a type of human altogether different than himself.
Finally, Loomis suggested that the police were intimidated by the fact that Tamir didn’t run away from them. Exaggerating that 99 percent of "those people" run when police pull up, the police, Loomis claims, were so spooked to the point of great fear when Tamir didn’t run that they just had no choice but to shoot Tamir. What’s so damn disturbing about this notion is that police regularly shoot fleeing suspects and claim that they have to shoot them for the safety of the community. Tamir, fully aware that he had done nothing illegal, innocently didn’t run, and he has been made out to be a monster because of it. Had Tamir fled when police pulled up, he would’ve actually broken a law, likely been shot, and the police would’ve used it for the very rationale of killing him.
Consistently insulting in his comments about Tamir Rice or police brutality in general, it’s become the norm for Steve Loomis to speak this way. However, the response from the city of Cleveland (seen in full below) to the lawsuit filed by Tamir’s family confirmed our worst expectations about the city—they basically claim that Tamir killed himself, as if we don’t actually have a video of the entire ordeal from the moments Tamir was playing at the park through when they shot him in less than two seconds of spotting him, to the four minutes they left him bleeding to death, to when they tackled and handcuffed his sister.
Tamir didn’t cause his own death. He was shot at point blank range in what would’ve been called a drive-by if he was shot by anyone other than police.
The Cleveland police have continued to tell lie after lie in the months after Tamir’s murder ranging from stating that he brandished the gun at the officers to saying that he was with a group of kids when they pulled up to asserting that they gave Tamir multiple warnings that he ignored. None of those things happened. In less time than it takes you to count to two, police shot Tamir in his stomach before their car even came to a complete stop.
Police also came forward the following day to speak about how the toy gun Tamir had that day didn’t have a bright neon tip, but the truth was that the police who shot Tamir never saw the gun one way or another until after they had already fatally shot him.
Ultimately, it’s almost unimaginable to think of a rich white child in a rich white suburb being treated the way Tamir was that day and the way Tamir and his family have been treated in the months since he was murdered. While American racism has been reduced to calling someone a n*gger, which we have no reason to believe that the police did on the day Tamir was killed, racism and discrimination are much more nuanced than that.
Racism is about the lens through which someone sees the world. When I see Tamir, I see a sweet young boy. I see someone I would mentor and coach. I see someone who looks like a member of my family. I see him and dream about his future and wonder about his passions and aspirations. When someone like Steve Loomis—who is driven by racial stereotypes—sees him he sees a menace, a thug, an intimidating force who should be put down, a threat that needs to be stopped.
This case is important to America. If it’s legal, with no ramifications, to shoot and kill our boys on contact, our nation and our laws are unjust