By Sheryl Estrada
While Samaria Rice continues to cope with the death of her 12-year-old son Tamir, a Cleveland resource officer decided to degrade her on his Facebook page, accusing her of just being out for money.
Matthew Cicero, who works for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), the same district that served young Tamir, posted the following statement on Dec. 30:
Tamir rices momma just want money. Lets make the proper changes.raise your kids not to play with fake guns stupid b**ch. All this media bc the (sic) are notngetting (sic) what they want. Againpleeeeze anyone who does not like what I post.unfriendly (sic) me or block me your not worth my time
In response, a Facebook friend named Wendy Smith commented, “Since when does a 12 year old playing with a toy gun alone in the park become a solid platform for the death penalty”
Cicero, who has worked with the CMSD for five years, responded, “You pull out a gun you get shot. I don’t have time to ask questions and coddle kids that wave guns around.”
In addition to his commentary on Rice, Cicero posted a meme of a man holding both a fake and real gun on his Facebook page:
Cicero’s posts follow a grand jury’s decision on Dec. 28, 2015, not to indict Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot and killed Rice on Nov. 22, 2014, or his partner Frank Garmback.The officers mistook his toy pellet gun for an actual weapon. Within two seconds of arriving at the Cudell Rec Center, rookie Loehmann shot Rice. He died the next day.
WEWS NewsChannel5 captured screenshots of Cicero’s posts before his Facebook page was deleted. After the news station confronted the CMSD chief of safety and security on Jan. 4 about the comments, Cicero was placed on paid administrative leave.
CMSD spokesperson Roseann Canfora issued a statement calling Cicero’s comments inappropriate.
“While we respect every employee’s right to freedom of speech, with those rights comes a responsibility to do so in ways that are appropriate and sensitive to others, particularly to the people we serve,” she wrote.
“The comments posted are particularly insensitive, considering that Officer Cicero works for the school district that served Tamir Rice and his family,” CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said in a statement. “Even as we grieve the tragic loss of this child to his family and to our entire school community, we are mindful of the very difficult job of our safety forces in our schools and our communities. Neither our citizens nor those who police our communities should be painted with a broad brush, and I don’t believe we will ever find solutions to such complex issues through Facebook postsespecially posts that further divide us.”
Cleveland Councilman Jeff Johnson said Cicero should be fired.
“It is disrespectful to women. It is disrespectful to African-Americans,” he said.
Samaria Rice has publicly criticized Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty for how he conducted the case.
“I hoped things could have been different, but due to Prosecutor McGinty and his misconduct in handling Tamir’s case he failed to advocate for my son,” Rice said in an interview with NewsOne Now on Jan. 6.
On Nov. 19, McGinty accused the Rice family of having “economic motives” when he was asked whether he’d step aside as Rice and her attorney requested a special prosecutor take over the case.
“They waited until they didn’t like the reports they received,” McGinty replied. “They’re very interesting people let me just leave it at that and they have their own economic motives.”
On Nov. 23, Rice family members and activists delivered a petition to McGinty’s office calling for his removal from the case. The petition contained more than 200,000 signatures.
Rice said money is not the motive in seeking justice for her son.
“That’s absurd for [McGinty] to say that and the only motive I have is justice for my son, which I’ve been carrying out since day one,” she said. “I’m not understanding why he’s saying that.”
Rice also weighed in on Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James being encouraged on social media to start sitting out NBA games to show solidarity with protesters. The hashtag #NoJusticeNoLebron is being used on Twitter.
“I think it’s quite sad that LeBron hasn’t spoken out about my son,” Rice said. “I’m not asking him to sit out a game. I know his kids got to eat too, but you can at least put on a shirt or something I’m not asking nobody to quit their job or anything, but make a statement for us Black people out here.”
James, who has lent his support to social issues in the past, said he hasn’t commented on the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers as he hasn’t “really been on top of this issue” and doesn’t have enough knowledge about it.
“I think the most important thing that we all need to understand, the most important thing, this issue is bigger than LeBron,” James told ESPN in an interview in December. “This issue is bigger than me; it’s about everyone. And gun violence and tragedies and kids losing lives at a young age, some way, somehow we need to understand that that matters more than just an individual.”