CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Funeral services were held Wednesday for Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy shot and killed by a police officer. About 100 family and friends gathered at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church to remember Rice, amidst calls for change.
“The tragic nature of his death should not overshadow his life,” said Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Pastor C. Jay Matthews.
Rice was shot by 26-year-old Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann, who, along with his partner, responded to a 911 call about a male with a gun at the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s west side on November 22.
Police said Rice appeared to be reaching for a gun after he was ordered to put his hands up. He was found with an airsoft pistol that resembled a real gun.
“Tamir had not begun to live life when it was suddenly and needlessly taken from him,” said Rice’s uncle, Michael Petty. “His young, fragile life was snuffed out like a candle in the wind.”
A memorial formed at the site of the shooting, yards from Marion C. Seltzer Elementary School, where Rice was in 7th grade. His teacher, Carletta Goodwin, described him as a well-liked member of the drum line who liked drawing and sports.
“Tamir enjoyed life. It just exuded from his very being,” Goodwin said. “Though his body is not there, I now carry him in my heart.”
Relatives of Rice expressed gratitude for the outpouring of community support. Rice had
six siblings. His mother struggled to maintain composure throughout the service, in which ministers and relatives alike expressed a call to action.
“Tamir can no longer speak for himself. That is why Tamir must live through us. We must now be his voice,” Petty said. “Tamir's death will not be in vain.”
Petty called for manufacturers to change the design of fake guns and reform in communication between dispatchers and officers, who never told a 911 caller reported the gun might not be real. He also expressed the need for changes in police training regarding use of deadly force.
“The family’s objectives are to, first, celebrate the life of Tamir, mourn his death and then seek justice,” Petty said. “We must now be his advocate for change and reform. Through peaceful protests, civil disobedience and legislation, Tamir will be heard.”
Matthews called for new dialogue between law enforcement and the African American community and youth awareness about interaction with police officers.
“This is not just the Rice family. This is a community called into question,” he said.
Rice’s family has set up a memorial fund in his name. Donations can be made at any U.S. Bank location.