It took less than three weeks for Baltimore police and prosecutors to complete their respective investigations into the death of Freddie Gray. Last Friday, charges were filed against six officers involved in the death, which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.
But in Cleveland, the family of Tamir Rice—the 12-year-old who was shot by police while he was playing with a toy gun in a park—has waited over five months for any movement from the county sheriff’s department. Additionally, the two officers involved have asked a federal judge to halt a civil lawsuit against them that has already been filed, saying that the suit would "unduly interfere with the integrity of the criminal proceedings."
This puts Rice’s family in a bad place. So bad, in fact, that Rice's mother said she had to move into a homeless shelter as a result of some of the ongoing distress. From the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery:
In a court filing dated Monday, Rice’s family said they cannot agree to hold off on their lawsuit until the investigation is complete in part because they are worried that crucial evidence could be lost. In addition, they said, the elongated pace at which the investigation is moving is causing them sustained distress.
“The incident has shattered the life of the Rice family,” the motion stated.
Rice’s mother, the motion goes on to state, has moved into a homeless shelter.
“In particular, Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, has since been forced to move to a homeless shelter because she could no longer live next door to the killing field of her son,” the motion said.
In Lowery's followup to that story from today, it was revealed that the family has moved into a modest apartment in Cleveland, after the short stint at the homeless shelter. About $60,000 donated to the Rice family was deemed inaccessible to the family for discretionary use, since the courts consider it part of Rice's estate trust, which needs the court's approval for spending.
The majority of those funds went to the family's former attorneys, who drew money from the estate trust when they were let go. A separate fund was set up by the family's current lawyers, which explicitly will be for the family's regular expenses of living. As of noon today, Lowery reported, the family attorney said the fund had raised $25,000.
Beyond initial financial burdens, the family says that the drawn out situation has prevented them from performing one of the core parts of the grieving process: burying the dead.
"Tamir Rice has yet to be laid to final rest," reads Monday's court filing. "Plaintiffs are incurring expense daily and are unsure if they can finally rest Tamir Rice due to the pending investigation."
Unlike the case of Freddie Gray, in which legal actions was brought so swiftly, the shooting of Rice was caught on camera. In the footage, officers can be seen shooting Rice within two seconds of stopping the police cruiser. A 911 caller told an operator that a black male who was "probably a juvenile" was waving a gun around the playground, and that it was likely that the gun was fake.
That message was never relayed to the officers who showed up. The lawsuit that the family filed alleges that the city, the two officers, and other city officials violated the family's rights by not relaying that critical information.
"I want to know how long do I have to wait for justice?" Samaria Rice asked at a recent press conference.
As of now, nobody is certain how to answer that question.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.