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Tamir Rice's Body Still Isn't Buried Because the Criminal Investigation Keeps Dragging On

Justice for Tamir Rice

In late November, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer after two officers responded to a 911 call that someone was brandishing a weapon in a park (it was an airsoft gun). Some five months later, his family is still not any closer to resolution. In fact, they haven't even been able to bury Tamir's body.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department's ongoing criminal investigation of the officers' actions have delayed the burial, the family says in a motion filed Monday

“Because it is unknow [sic] whether there may need to be an additional medical examination; the body of Tamir Rice has not be put to rest,” says the motion, published by “Tamir Rice not being finally laid to rest prevents emotional healing and incurs a daily expense. The foot dragging of this investigation has now spanned three seasons."

It is not a mystery what happened to Tamir Rice. The shooting was caught on video, and shows an officer firing at Rice seconds after arriving at the scene. "In that video," the motion says, "it is clear that Tamir Rice was shot within a [sic] one second of the officers arrival and he was never given an opportunity to comply with any verbal commands (if they actually had been given)."

The two officers involved, Timothy Loehmann and his partner Frank Garmback, have asked a federal judge to halt the family's federal civil rights lawsuit while the sheriff completes an independent criminal investigation. Neither have been charged in Rice's death. City attorneys argued in Loehmann and Garmback's motion that they fear their answers in the federal investigation may self-incriminate them in the criminal case, "where the stakes are significantly higher and their liberty is directly at risk."

If the officers get their wish, the family worries that more delay would weaken their case, as eyewitnesses’ memories fade.

"Plaintiffs are incurring expense daily and are unsure if they can finally rest Tamir Rice due to the pending investigation," the motion says. "A stay would exacerbate this expense and emotional distress." Samaria Rice, Tamir's mother, is now living in a homeless shelter because she "could no longer live next door to the killing field of her son."