More than six months after a troubled rookie officer, Timothy Loehmann, fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Clevland park, the Cuyahoga sherriff’s department has finally completed its investigation and handed its results to Cleveland-area prosecutor Timothy McGinty. There is no official word on what they’ve uncovered about November 22, 2014 when police found Rice playing with a pellet gun by himself at Cudell Recreation Center park and shot him wthin two seconds of their arrival. (One local news outlet has reported that the department found no evidence to support criminal charges against Loehmann; a call to the department was not returned in time for publication.)
What we do know, all too well, is that the name “Tamir Rice” sits on a long, horrifying list of young people of color killed by police and extrajudicial violence. Tamir is now among the Trayvons and the Rekias, the Jessies and the Michaels. It’s a devastating distinction.
I talked to Tamir’s mom, Samaria Rice, in late May as she was planning a community celebration for her youngest son’s birthday. She opened up about who Tamir was, what she thinks of protests in his name, and what she and her other children—Tajai, Kavon and Tasheona—are doing to heal from this unimaginable loss.
Thank you for taking the out to speak with me. I’ve heard that you’re planning a big event to celebrate what would have been Tamir’s 13th birthday. Can you tell me about it?
Tamir’s birthday is June 25. On June 20 we’re going to celebrate with a day of community healing [at Cudell park]. We’re going to bring the community together and let them know that we’re thankful for support they’ve given. It’s going to be a very positive day that brings awareness to children about interaction with the police, eating healthy—fruits and vegetables. There will be some inspirational, uplifting [messages]—praise dance and [words] from two pastors. We’ve already given out 400 bags at Tamir’s school that include a Justice for Tamir bracelet, fruit, a granola bar and Tamir’s Pledge.
What is Tamir’s Pledge?
It’s for the kids. It has statements about honoring and respecting your mom and dad, living in peace and harmony and giving back to community.
You mentioned thanking your community for supporting you and your family. What have people done?
People have been giving me more hugs and laughs, and just letting me know they’re there. They’ve taken up offerings to help me and my children. People have come to us with open arms.
There have been a lot of protests calling for justice for Tamir including one in May where protestors went to the prosecutor’s house. How do you feel about these actions?
I have no control over what the people [are] doing. They’re going to do it anyway. But we have instructed [organizers] not to use the family’s name. We can’t have people representing the Rice family without our input. People have to understand—he’s a 12-year-old child and he needs to be represented in a different way.
Why? Because he was so young?
Yes, because he was so young. He was a child, and I want people to respect him as a child. We can’t expose him, and have [people] basically gloating off of the situation. Yes, I am fighting for a cause. Before this happened, I didn’t think nothing of it. But after it happened to my family I am definitely in the fight. [But] I just want people to respect him as a child. I’m sorry about the police shootings all over this nation, but [most] people are talking about adults who might have lived their life to a certain extent. We need to acknowledge that there are children that’s dying. We should respect them as children, just respect them, period.
Do you have a relationship with other mothers of children killed by police and people trying to be police like George Zimmerman? Have you talked to [Tayvon Martin’s mother], Sabrina Fulton?
I talk to Sabrina all the time. I really appreciate her guiding me and giving me advice. We have a unique relationship, a bond. I’m there any time she needs me just like she’s there when I need her. Also, I’ve been reaching out to Cleveland moms affected by police brutality. We need to map out our plan.
How are your other children doing?
We’re doing. We’re doing. I’ll say that. I’ve had counseling in my home for years and I have it now. Through counseling and therapy, we’re coming back together. We have a family that has been destroyed, but we’re putting it back together, piece by piece.
I’m glad to hear that. One thing I wanted to ask you is about reports that you stayed in a homeless shelter because you couldn’t stand to live by the Cudell Recreation Center park. Is that true?
Yes. I couldn’t stand to be near the park
How long did you stay in the shelter?
About two months. I chose to go to the shelter to get the help that I needed beecause the donation money, I didn’t get a chance to receive it. There was a mixup somewhere.
Where are you living now? Are you in a totally different neighborhood?
I’m still a West Sider of Cleveland. I like the West Side, to have a diverse neighborhood for my children.
Do you interact with police at all? Have you talked to them?
The only person I’ve been talking to recently is the sheriff. There was no mayor; nobody has came to reach out to me. Sheriff Pinkney keeps me up on the case.
We know Tamir’s image, but what was he like? What do you want people to know about him?
Well Tamir, he was my clingy baby; he clinged on me like glue. He was a true mama’s boy, and he was helpful. He was a kind and loving person, above all. Just like every other child he had his struggles but he knew how to collect himself and act in a proper manner. He was a good child: He had just helped the man at the rec center do a Halloween party for the little children. … And Tamir was very talented in all sports. He was my All American star. He could have been next LeBron James, I really believe that. He was advanced; he was not the average child because I made things available to him. I have sacrificed a lot for my children.
What kinds of programs was he involved in?
He was in a mentoring program, the Boys and Girls club, he was on a soccer team, he went to [an] arts program, he played basketball—just numerous things. And I made myself available. I did that for all of my children. We did volleyball for Tajai, who just graduated from John Adams [high school]. We did afterschool programs and had numerous tutors. I did a lot of sacrificing because I was a single mother.
Can you tell me how Tamir’s death has affected your day-to-day life?
I have three other children, Tajai, Kavon and Tasheona. Tasheona has a 10-month-old baby, Talaya. I still have to be a mother and grandmother pushing through the madness. This is a nightmare and I have not woken up.